‘Saviour of the World’ sells for $451 million
Holy Fuck! ‘Christ as Salvator Mundi’ flips for half a bil!
Are we experiencing the biggest, most epic bubble in the history of the [art] world? Perhaps. Or maybe not. According to market theorists, speculators and trend forecasters, the Leonardo da Vinci painting that sold last night at Christie’s New York for a whopping $451 million (62,500 bitcoin) represented red-hot greed, and signaled a sizzling risk-on sentiment for the foreseeable future.
The 500-year-old “Christ as Salvator Mundi,” which was originally expected to fetch only $100 million, was the star of Christie’s evening sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art, and was a windfall for the venerable auction house (Christie’s went balls out in promoting the piece with a glossy 162-page book featuring quotes from Dostoyevsky, Freud, and Leonardo, and ran several stylized vids of enraptured gazers gawking in wonder at ‘the new masterpiece’). The previous auction record for an Old Master painting was held by Peter Paul Rubens, whose “The Massacre of the Innocents” sold for $76.5 million in 2002. Last year, Citadel’s Ken Griffin bought up over $500 million worth of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. But last night’s sale was fucking unprecedented!
“Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Saviour of the World”, is one of only 15 surviving works by Leonardo da Vinci and depicts Jesus Christ in a flowing robe, holding a crystal orb and raising his right hand in benediction. The 67.5cm tall portrait, which once belonged to King Charles I of England in the 17th century, disappeared around 1900. In 2005, it resurfaced at an estate sale and, after six years of research and restoration, was legitimately linked to da Vinci, the first such rediscovery in more than 100 years. Before the auction, Christie’s secured an irrevocable $100 million bid by an anonymous investor guaranteeing a godsend return.
The rare work is part of a limited pool of paintings by Leonardo and the only one in private hands. It was being sold by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev’s family trust. Rybolovlev, a.k.a. Russia’s ‘fertilizer king’, purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013 and it’s been at the center of an international legal dispute and the subject of oodles of controversy (many experts have asserted that it is a fake). Rybolovlev amassed a $2 billion portfolio of art with the help of entrepreneur Yves Bouvier, but in recent years has been selling off various pieces from the collection, often at insane discounts.
Rybolovlev will no doubt be happy with the 250% return he made in just 4 years. Christie‘s will also be thrilled: the $451 million sale means the auction house will pocket $50.3 million in premiums and fees paid for its services.
Jussi Pylkkanen, auctioneer for the evening, opened bidding on the piece at $70 million and offers rapidly poured in. Gasps broke out throughout the salesroom in Rockefeller Center when an offer hit $200 million. Then it exceeded $400 million. Bidders interested in the Da Vinci — lot 9 of the evening’s sale — were given special red paddles in the salesroom, a move the auction house attributed to the work’s premium value (“The greatest and most unexpected artistic rediscovery of the 21st century!”), although much of the action was fueled by overseas phone bidders.
Anyway, after its disappearance, the painting was acquired in 2005 in rather poor condition and partly painted-over (a consortium of art dealers paid less than $10,000 for the piece). The art dealers restored the painting, ran a forensic assessment (X-ray techniques, etc.) and confirmed its authenticity as a work by Leonardo. Christie’s says most scholars agree that the painting is indeed the real deal, though some critics still question the integrity of the work.
Christie’s capitalized on the public’s intense interest in Leonardo’s limited gems, with a media and marketing blitz that dubbed the painting “The Last Da Vinci.” The work was showcased in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before last night’s historic sale. VIVISXN believes the mystery buyer is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos…or maybe Alibaba’s Jack Ma.
Other paintings that went on the block included works by Mark Rothko, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. We expect these to fetch pretty premiums in the future as well. The bull market in Renaissance and Contemporary art is just getting under way. See you at Art Basel, Miami in two weeks for more art world froth and frenzy! Gaze and gawk at the glorious works below ― they are all valued at $150 million or more! Waaaaaaa…
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