Da Vinci portrait of Christ sells for record $450.3 million in New York

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Christie's employees pose in front of a painting entitled Salvator Mundi by Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci at a photocall at Christie's auction house in central London, in this October 22, 2017 photo, ahead of its sale at Christie's New York on November 15, 2017. (AFP)
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This file photo taken on November 03, 2017 shows Leonardo da Vinci’s "Salvator Mundi" on display at Christie's New York during a press preview for the Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale to be held on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2017

Da Vinci portrait of Christ sells for record $450.3 million in New York

NEW YORK: Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ “Salvator Mundi” sold for a record-smashing $450.3 million on Wednesday at Christie’s in New York — more than double the old mark for any work of art at auction.
The painting, which once sold for a mere $125, was only recently rediscovered. It was the last da Vinci left in private hands and fetched more than four times the Christie’s pre-sale estimate of about $100 million.
The price was more than twice the old record for any work of art, set by Picasso’s “Les Femmes D’Alger,” which sold for $179.4 million in May 2015.
“Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted bidding war that stretched to nearly 20 minutes at the New York auction house.
The restored portrait, an ethereal depiction of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, is one of fewer than 20 paintings by the Renaissance artist known to still exist.
First recorded in the private collection of King Charles I, the work was auctioned in 1763 before vanishing until 1900, by which time Christ’s face and hair had been painted over — once a “quite common” practice, according to Alan Wintermute, Christie’s senior specialist for Old Master paintings.
Sold at Sotheby’s to an American collector in 1958 for only 45 pounds (then about $126), it again sold in 2005 as an overpainted copy of the masterwork.
The new owner started the restoration process, and after some six years of research it was authenticated as da Vinci’s more than 500-year-old masterpiece, which culminated in a high-profile exhibition at London’s National Gallery in 2011.
Christie’s did not identify the seller other than to say it was a European private collector who acquired the work after its rediscovery in 2005 and lengthy restoration.
But media reports identified him as Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid $127.5 million in 2013 in a private sale.
The painting stands as the first discovery of a da Vinci painting since 1909.


‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

Updated 24 October 2020

‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

  • “Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News
  • He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10

ROME: Saudi artist Sultan bin Fahad has chosen Rhinoceros, an art gallery in Rome’s historic heart, for his first solo show.
The exhibition, “Frequency,” is staged in a 15th-century building recently renovated by French architect Jean Nouvel, and includes six installations featuring light, incense, shadows, music and sounds. Each piece describes a spiritual journey to modernity through many cultures, but one that is firmly linked to Islam.
“Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News from Los Angeles, where he lives. He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10.
“Each of my creations is specific. I wanted to tell a concept that was understood and expressed by the surrounding place,” the artist said. Over the years he collected precious antique pieces from Makkah and Madinah which he found all over the world, including some metallic pieces which had gone missing in 1979. He shot videos and recorded sounds, and used everything in the artwork that describes what he sees as the human journey toward a sacred temple of feelings.
The exhibition includes “Been There,” a piece with four ancient stones inscribed in Arabic interacting with a large plate of luminescent glass. Then comes “If Stone Could Speak,” with white marble works from Makkah. A video is projected showing men and women gathered in prayer.
Another work, “Possession,” shows an image of the hands of men and women trying to get closer to an elusive God, trying to touch the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“I filmed those people and I was interested to understand why they were doing those gestures. They were trying to reach the divine. I thought it was moving,” Fahad said.
“The Verse of The Throne” contains a projection of a verse from the Holy Qur’an in front of six bowls, with water serving as an element of purification. Then comes “The White Noise,” represented in two immersive rooms, associated by the artist with the prayers of Makkah pilgrims.
Fahad said the exhibition looks to “involve all the senses to create a real experience, going beyond a visual experience for the visitor.”
In this sense, his works represent the place where anthropological concepts were born and became infused by Greek, Latin and Eastern cultures.
In fact, in the Arabian Gulf, humans once measured their existence through the loss of their relatives, creating a cult of the dead, which is reflected in Fahad’s work.
The artist is waiting to see what the future has in store. “I have no plans so far. I am so happy that I could produce something in 2020 due the the difficult time the entire world is experiencing. Let us hope that the situation will evolve for the better,” he said.

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