Louvre Abu Dhabi Says Emirate 'Acquired' the Da Vinci Painting

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a likely destination for the world’s most expensive painting Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a likely destination for the world’s most expensive painting Leonardo’s Salvator MundiCACACE AFP GETTY IMAGES

The announcement comes less than a month after the Louvre Abu Dhabi - the Paris institution's first outpost outside France - opened its doors.

Salvator Mundi, which depicts Jesus holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in blessing, is one of some 16 known surviving works painted by da Vinci.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, acting through a friend and distant cousin, was the true buyer behind the purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi for a record-breaking $450.3 million, USA officials and an Arab familiar with the arrangement said on Thursday. "This is in line with our ambition to share this extraordinary museum with the world, and our mission to inspire a new generation of cultural leaders and creative thinkers to contribute to our rapidly-changing and tolerant nation".

But unless he decides to hang the work in a Manhattan pied-a-terre, or ships it using a certain type of carrier, he'll likely be spared the roughly $39 million in sales taxes a regular New Yorker would have to pay for buying a work of art at that price at a local poster shop. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013.

"Christie's can confirm that the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi is acquiring "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci", the auction house said in a statement.

New York-based art collector and da Vinci expert Robert Simon and art dealer Alexander Parish found the painting in Louisiana in 2005 and purchased it for US$10,000.

The newspaper said that the work will be lent or resold to museums, largely in the Middle East and Asia. "If those rules are not abided by, there will be some inadvertent sales tax".

In a statement made available on its website, the Saudi Arabian embassy in America said that Prince Bader has been a supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and that on November 8, at the Louvre's opening ceremony, the Department of Culture and Tourism approached the prince and asked him to act as an "intermediary purchaser". NY state authorities say purchases by out-of-state buyers who use specialized art shippers as opposed to common freight carriers like UPS or FedEx are subject to sales tax.

NY has socked art houses in the past for failing to collect sales tax. Since the painting, which was valued at over $100 million, sold though, its buyer and final destination have been curious. As part of that settlement, the gallery created its own shipping division so it could legally avoid incurring tax liability.

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