Crown prince ‘was mystery buyer of $450m Leonardo’
A MEMBER of the Saudi Arabian royal family acting as a proxy to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been revealed as the mystery buyer of the most expensive artwork in history.
Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud paid $450 million (£336 million) for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at an auction in New York last month.
According to the New York Times,
Prince Bader, who has links with the crown prince, was not present at the auction but sent an agent to bid on his behalf. However, it was claimed last night that the artwork would end up in the hands of Prince Mohammed.
US government intelligence and sources in the Saudi art world told the
Wall Street Journal that Prince Bader was merely the nominal winner of the auction. It is unclear how Prince Bader made his money, with no publicly known source of wealth. However, he paid a $100million deposit to qualify for entry to the bidding at Christie’s.
He has no history in the art market and the purchase comes at a time when Prince Mohammed himself is leading a crackdown on some of the excesses of the country’s extended royal family.
More than 200 royals were arrested last month on corruption charges and the bank accounts of 376 were frozen.
The kingdom has been squeezed by low oil prices and Prince Mohammed was seeking to recover hundreds of billions of dollars in alleged illicit gains. Prince Mohammed’s own extravagance – including the $500million purchase two years ago of a 440 ft yacht, and now the artwork – has raised questions.
It looks likely the painting will be housed first at the newly opened outpost of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The UAE is an ally of the Saudi royal family.
Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prince Bader paid $450 million for Salvator Mundi at Christie’s in New York in November