'Salvator Mundi' - the most expensive artwork ever sold (ctd)

November 21 2017

Video: Christie's

Here are the edited highlights from the sale night. Christie's Jussi Pylkannen makes auctioneering look easy; it's anything but. And here he produced an auction performance for the ages. Bravo.

There's been a lot of comment on Christie's decision to put the picture in a contemporary art sale, rather than an Old Master sale. Many say that the sale was a 'triumph of marketing and branding', and that somehow the picture made an unjustified price, or that Christie's pulled a fast one. 

But Christie's made a conscious decision to turn its back on the politics  that can sometimes dominate an Old Master sale. Despite the scholarly acclaim that has greeted the Salvator Mundi, we've seen that if enough sceptical voices decry the picture, it can become 'disputed' - even if those voices lack the necessary authority to be cited as experts. We might call them 'neinsagers', after the phrase used by the art historian Max Friedlander:

As the 'No' man imagines that he stands above the 'Yes' man - and probably also to others to seem to stand higher - critics will always feel the impulse to attack genuine works in order to win the applause of the maliciously minded. The 'Yes' men have done more harm, but have also been of greater usefulness, than the rigorous 'no' men, who deserve no confidence if they never have proved their worth as 'Yes' men.

The view for your average major Old Master sale is full of 'neinsagers'. It can get quite nasty at times. And this was the atmosphere that Christie's decided to remove the Salvator Mundi - the most important Old Master to be sold in recent times - from entirely. Those in the business of selling Old Masters ought to reflect on this. 

Incidentally, for the last two years, the most expensive paintings sold in the world have been Old Masters (last year's being the Rothschild Rembrandts).

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.