“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” stated Todd Levin, a New York artwork adviser.
Christie’s advertising marketing campaign was maybe unprecedented within the artwork world; it was the primary time the public sale home went as far as to enlist an outdoor company to promote the work. Christie’s additionally launched a video that included prime executives pitching the portray to Hong Kong shoppers as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s referred to as the work “the Last da Vinci,” the one recognized portray by the Renaissance grasp nonetheless in a personal assortment (some 15 others are in museums).
“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” stated Alan Hobart, director of the Pyms Gallery in London, who has acquired museum-quality artworks throughout a variety of historic durations for the British businessman and collector Graham Kirkham. “This is going to be the future.”
There was a palpable air of anticipation at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters because the artwork market’s main gamers filed into the gross sales room. The capability crowd included prime sellers like Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner and Marc Payot of Hauser & Wirth. Major collectors had traveled right here for the sale, amongst them Eli Broad and Michael Ovitz from Los Angeles; Martin Margulies from Miami; and Stefan Edlis from Chicago. Christie’s had produced particular purple paddles for these bidding on the Leonardo, and lots of of its specialists taking bids on the telephone wore elegant black.
Earlier, 27,000 individuals had lined up at pre-#auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York to glimpse the portray of Christ as “Savior of the World.” Members of the general public — certainly, even many cognoscenti — cared little if in any respect whether or not the portray may need been executed partially by studio assistants; whether or not Leonardo had truly made the work himself; or how a lot of the canvas had been repainted and restored. They simply needed to see a masterwork that dates from about 1500 and was rediscovered in 2005.
“There is extraordinary consensus it is by Leonardo,” stated Nicholas Hall, the previous co-chairman of previous grasp work at Christie’s, who now runs his personal Manhattan gallery. “This is the most important old master #painting to have been sold at auction in my lifetime.”
That is the type of name-brand attraction that Christie’s was presumably banking on by putting the portray in its high-profile modern artwork sale, somewhat than in its much less attractive annual previous grasp public sale, the place it technically belongs. To some extent, the public sale home succeeded with the portray even earlier than the sale, having secured a assured $100 million bid from an unidentified third social gathering. It is the 12th paintings to interrupt the $100 million mark at public sale, and a brand new excessive for any previous grasp at public sale, surpassing Rubens’s “Massacre of the Innocents,” which bought for $76.7 million in 2002 (or greater than $105 million, adjusted for inflation).
But many artwork specialists argue that Christie’s used advertising window dressing to masks the luggage that comes with the Leonardo, from its compromised situation to its difficult shopping for historical past and stated that the public sale home put the paintings in a up to date sale to bypass the scrutiny of previous masters specialists, lots of whom have questioned the portray’s authenticity and situation.
“The composition doesn’t come from Leonardo,” stated Jacques Franck, a Paris-based artwork historian and Leonardo specialist. “He preferred twisted movement. It’s a good studio work with a little Leonardo at best, and it’s very damaged.”
“It’s been called ‘the male Mona Lisa,’” he stated, “but it doesn’t look like it at all.” Mr. Franck stated he has examined the Mona Lisa out of its body 5 occasions.
Luke Syson, curator of the 2011 National Gallery exhibition in London that featured the portray, stated in his catalog essay that “the picture has suffered.” While each arms are nicely preserved, he stated, the portray was “aggressively over cleaned,” leading to abrasion of the entire floor, “especially in the face and hair of Christ.”
Christie’s maintains that it was upfront concerning the much-restored, broken situation of the oil-on-panel, which exhibits Christ together with his proper hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crystal orb.
But Christie’s was additionally sluggish to launch an official situation report and its authenticity guarantee on the Leonardo runs out in 5 years, because it does on all tons purchased at its auctions, in accordance with the small print behind its sale catalog.
The public sale home has additionally performed down the portray’s risky gross sales historical past.
The paintings has been the subject of legal disputes and amassed a worth historical past that ranges from lower than $10,000 in 2005, when it was noticed at an property public sale, to $200 million when it was first provided for sale by a consortium of three sellers in 2012. But no establishment in addition to the Dallas Museum of Art, which in 2012 made an undisclosed supply on the portray, confirmed public curiosity in shopping for it. Finally, in 2013, Sotheby’s bought it privately for $80 million to Yves Bouvier, a Swiss artwork supplier and businessman. Soon afterward, he bought it for $127.5 million, to the household belief of the Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E. Rybolovlev. Mr. Rybolovlev’s household belief was the vendor on Wednesday night time.
There was hypothesis that Liu Yiqian, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder together with his spouse of the Long Museum in Shanghai, might have been among the many bidders. In current years, the former taxi-driver-turned-power collector has turn into recognized for his splashy, record-breaking artwork purchases, together with an Amedeo Modigliani nude portray for $170.four million at a Christie’s public sale in 2015. But in a message despatched to a reporter by way of WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, Mr. Liu stated he was not among the many bidders for the Leonardo.
On Thursday morning, quickly after the ultimate sale was introduced, Mr. Liu posted a message on his WeChat social media feed. “Da Vinci’s Savior sold for 400 million USD, congratulations to the buyer,” he wrote. “Feeling kind of defeated right now.”