Mystery Buyer of $450 Million ‘Salvator Mundi’ Was a Saudi Prince
A spokeswoman for Christie’s, the auction house in which sold “Salvator Mundi,” said in which did not comment on the identities of any buyers or sellers without their permission. Prince Bader did not respond to a detailed request for comment. however as The Times was pressing for a response on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, inside the United Arab Emirates, tweeted in which the painting “is actually coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi.” The Saudi crown prince is actually a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.
Documents provided through inside Saudi Arabia as well as also reviewed by The Times reveal in which representatives for the buyer, Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale. He was such an unknown figure in which executives at Christie’s were scrambling to establish his identity as well as also his financial means. as well as also even after he had provided a $100 million deposit to qualify for the auction, the Christie’s lawyers conducting due diligence on potential bidders pressed him with two pointed questions:
Where did he get the money? as well as also what was his relationship with the Saudi ruler, King Salman?
Real estate, Prince Bader replied, without elaborating. He was just one of 5,000 princes, he told the auction house, according to documents as well as also people involved.
Less than two weeks earlier, on Nov. 4, the crown prince had ordered the crackdown on more than 0 of the richest Saudi princes, businessmen as well as also government officials. The kingdom had been squeezed by years of low oil prices, as well as also Prince Mohammed was seeking to recover hundreds of billions of dollars in alleged illicit gains.
“Salvator Mundi” represented a major prestige purchase inside the art world, if a controversial one. Some experts questioned whether the painting was a true Leonardo. Some were simply unimpressed. The painting’s previous owner, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, is actually a Russian billionaire who bought a $95 million Florida home through Donald J. Trump nearly a decade ago. Mr. Rybolovlev had paid $127.5 million for the painting in 2013 — less than a third of its sale cost last month — as well as also he is actually still locked in litigation with the dealer who sold in which to him over in which lofty cost, among some other transactions.
For Prince Bader, paying such an unprecedented sum for a painting of Christ also risked offending the religious sensibilities of his Muslim countrymen. Muslims teach in which Jesus was not the savior however a prophet. as well as also most Muslims — especially the clerics of Saudi Arabia — consider the artistic depiction of any of the prophets to be a form of sacrilege.
Prince Bader comes through a lesser branch of the royal family, the Farhan, who are descended through a brother of an 18th-century Saudi ruler. They do not trace their lineage to the founder of the modern kingdom, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud. however Prince Bader is actually a contemporary of Prince Mohammed. They attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time, if not together. as well as also after King Salman, today 81, took the throne in 2015 as well as also appointed Prince Mohammed to run much of the government, he named Prince Bader to high-profile positions, including one closely linked to the family.
The Salman branch of the royal family has traditionally controlled the Saudi Research as well as also Marketing Group, which publishes the Pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat as well as also some other publications. After nearly 30 years of passing the chairmanship of the group through one Salman to another, King Salman as well as also Prince Mohammed instead put Prince Bader inside the post.
In July, King Salman also named Prince Bader governor of a newly formed commission, led by Prince Mohammed, to develop the province of Al Ola, which contains an archaeological site in which the crown prince hopes to turn into a tourist destination.
A government statement about the commission noted in which the development of the province was important to the crown prince’s plans for the kingdom, known as Saudi Vision 2030, as well as also last week the Saudi news network Al Arabiya reported in which Prince Mohammed had posed for selfies there with locals while touring the desert on a four-wheeled buggy.
Prince Bader sat on the board of an energy company in which did business in Saudi Arabia, Energy Holdings International, according to its website, as well as also a short biography there describes him as “one of Saudi Arabia’s youngest entrepreneurs.” (in which was not immediately clear if the company is actually still operating.)
According to the biography, he is actually also “chairman of the founding committee” of a local consortium in which won a license through the kingdom to build a fiber-optic network, in a “strategic partnership” with Verizon. in which is actually common for well-connected Saudi princes to profit by providing entry to the kingdom for international companies.
He is actually also described among the founders of a large recycling as well as also waste-management business in Saudi Arabia. As for real estate, which Prince Bader described to Christie’s as the source of his money, the biography says he “has also been active in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Dubai as well as also the rest of the Middle East over several years,” including in partnership with “large reputed companies.” The date of the biography could not be determined.
Prince Bader appears to have worked with Prince Mohammed on at least one grand project for his own leisure, as well. Together, the two approached Brent Thompson Architects, a firm based in Los Angeles, to design an elaborate resort complex near Jidda, according to a description of the project on the group’s website.
in which consisted of as many as seven palaces for princes inside the Salman branch of the family, around an artificial body of water inside the shape of a flower. “Petals of in which tropical flower formed a series of private coves, each the home of an individual palace, its own private beaches, guesthouse, gardens as well as also water sports facilities,” according to the description on the firm’s website.
When the bidding opened at Christie’s in fresh York on Nov. 15, Prince Bader participated by telephone as well as also was represented inside the room by Alex Rotter, co-chairman of postwar as well as also contemporary art at the auction house. At least three some other anonymous bidders were competing by telephone through representatives inside the room. Major dealers as well as also collectors through across the art world had gathered to watch.
Bidding opened which has a $100 million offer through an unknown collector, setting a floor for the auction. The bids commenced jumping in increments of $10 million, as well as also almost immediately reached $225 million, far surpassing the previous record for a sale at auction: the $179.4 million paid for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” at Christie’s in 2015.
The cost climbed further, in $5 million steps, reaching $260 million less than two minutes after the auction began. Then, only two anonymous bidders were left, Prince Bader as well as also another person represented inside the room by François de Poortere, the head of old master paintings at Christie’s.
The cost rose slowly for a while, by increments of as little as $2 million. however after the bidding reached $330 million, Prince Bader began to raise the cost by increasingly large amounts. The room erupted in gasps when he offered $350 million. “Looking for another bid, please, Francois, at $350 million,” the auctioneer said, as well as also the crowd laughed at his audacity.
Yet the bidding continued until, about 19 minutes after the auction began, Prince Bader put in which away which has a $30 million jump, to $400 million. The final $450 million cost includes additional fees paid by the buyer.
The prince had told Christie’s in which he intended to pay in one lump sum upon completion of the sale. however in light of the unexpectedly high sale cost, a contract was drawn up specifying six monthly installments. several are for $58,385,416.67.
The last installment is actually due on May 14. in which is actually 2 cents less: $58,385,416.65.
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