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  • Dec 07, 2017

Louvre Abu Dhabi To Receive USD 450 Million Leonardo Da Vinci

Salvator Mundi

The most rousing questions that trailed the historic sale of Salvator Mundi (c. 1500), attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, which smashed records to become the most expensive artwork ever sold by hammering at USD 450 million at Christie’s New York on November 15, was who the buyer could have possibly been, and why were they dropping half a billion dollars on a painting, particularly when its authorship was being questioned by experts. (There was, of course, one other major question on many minds: Has the world gone haywire?) At least one of those mysteries appeared to have been resolved—on December 8, the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted: “Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum.”

This follows a series of investigative reports about the work’s buyer. First, on December 6, the New York Times published an article identifying Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud as the enigmatic bidder. A day later, however, the Wall Street Journal revealed that prince Bader was acting as a proxy for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is a close ally of Abu Dhabi. Days before the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s announcement, it was reported that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had consolidated their ties by forming a joint cooperation committee to coordinate in military, economic and cultural matters. Earlier in the year, the Gulf allies launched an embargo against Qatar, together with Bahrain and Egypt.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has not confirmed the Saudi prince’s role in its acquisition of the work. Over the last decade, the institution has bought over 600 works for its billion-dollar collection, which spans sculptures from the third millennium BCE to fountain sets from the early Ottoman period, as well as 20th century European paintings. At the museum, Salvator Mundi will be joining Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait de femme, dit La Belle Ferronnière (c. 1490s), which is on loan from the Louvre in Paris. The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be the only museum outside of Europe and the US where visitors can see works by the Renaissance master. Salvator Mundi is also currently the subject of a loan negotiation, led by the Paris arm of the Louvre, which hopes to include the work for a da Vinci exhibition slated to take place in the last quarter of 2019.

In any case—it appears that the public will have access to the “last da Vinci” after all.

Chloe Chu is the associate editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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