November 17 2017 | Written by Cody Delistraty for Frieze
The Da Vinci Sale and a New Meaning of What Art is Worth
(Above image: Agents celebrate after the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (c.1500) during the Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie’s on November 15, 2017 in New York. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
If the past is any indication, Wednesday’s anonymous buyer didn’t make a smart financial investment. After the family trust of the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ, Salvator Mundi (c.1500), from the Swiss dealer Yves Bouvier for USD$127.5 million in 2014, Rybolovlev alleged that he’d been vastly overcharged and filed a lawsuit in Monaco. Before that, at an estate auction in 2005, the painting was presumed to be a copy and was bought for under $10,000.
But on Wednesday night, at a star-studded and cleverly hyped contemporary auction at Christie’s in New York, Salvator Mundi sold to an anonymous party over the telephone for an astonishing and record-shattering $450.3 million, including the buyer’s premium.
Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi(Saviour of the World), c.1500, oil on walnut, 66 x 45 cm. Courtesy: Christie’s, London / New York
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