A 500-year-old painting believed to be by Leonardo da Vinci sold for $450.3 million in NY on Wednesday, blazing a new world record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction, Christie's said. This came after more than six years of painstaking research and inquiry to document the painting's authenticity. "Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now", Wintermute said. The painting is the last privately owned Da Vinci and is expected to fetch around $100,000,000. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, 'It's an historic moment; we'll wait'.
Rybolovlev put the painting up for auction through Christie's in NY last night and the sale of Lot 9 turned into a 20-minute heavyweight title fight between to two unknown buyers that smashed all previous auction records, having started with a price estimate of $US100 million.
That is the kind of name-brand appeal that Christie's was presumably banking on by placing the painting in its high-profile contemporary art sale, rather than in its less sexy annual old master auction, where it technically belongs.
Punches were thrown by the millions, with the price jumping from $US332 million to $US350 million in one bid, then, after 18 minutes, from $US370 million to $US400 million, the price the hammer came down on.
Furthermore, he added it's honestly "wonderful" for an "Old Master" to be at the center of attention once again. The painting first reappeared at a 1958 auction, where it only sold for $59 after it was dismissed as a copy. Based on Leonardo's Renaissance masterpiece, the monumental piece is from a group of works created by Warhol on the suggestion of Milan-based gallerist Alexander Iolas in 1984. Further records by medium were set for works by Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Jean Dubuffet and Richard Serra.
'We toured Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi around the world, and at every stop crowds of people were drawn to this painting, wanting to stand in front of the picture and experience it in person. That is the magic of his work'. Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie's co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francis de Poortere, Christie's head of old master paintings. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one's mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them - both the "Mona Lisa" and "Salvator Mundi" are ideal examples of this.
With much of public-facing art world firmly turning its back on the Trumps, it's yet another example of the fraught, high-stakes interests at play.