Who underbid the Salvator Mundi?

March 30 2018

Image of Who underbid the Salvator Mundi?

Picture: Christie's

There's new speculation in the Daily Mail as to who underbid the $450m Salvator Mundi. The story says that two Arab princes bid against each other unknowingly, and that the ultimate winner, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, later swapped the painting for a yacht:

Now DailyMail.com can reveal the de-facto United Arab Emirates ruler Mohammed Bin Zayed also sent a representative to bid on the painting at the Christie's New York auction, in an attempt to secure it for the $1 billion Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, the sources tell DailyMail.com.

But neither Arab ruler knew the other was bidding, instead they both feared losing the auction to reps from the Qatari ruling family.

Qatar is fierce Gulf rivals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and its ruling family is well-known for its interest in high end art.

'The bidding started to get high, and each of them thought they were bidding against the Qataris, and didn't want them to get it,' said one source close to the Emirati leader.

So they gave their proxies instructions, saying 'you can go as high as you want, just make sure you get it'.

'It got to $450 million and the Emiratis gave up. Then s**t hit the fan when the record came out.

'MBZ [Mohammed Bin Zayed] told Salman: "That was us bidding for it, why didn't you tell me?"'

And so the Saudi prince then swapped the painting for the Emirati prince's yacht. The story then goes on to quote 'the Emirati palace source' as saying:

The Qataris were offered that painting one year before for just $80 million, and that's more in the ball park of what it's really worth,' said the source.

'But they looked at it, and they felt it was too Christian for their collection, so they declined… The Saudis paid way, way too much for it.'

I'm sceptical about this version of events. First, the source seems determined to prove mainly that the picture is somehow 'not worth' what it made - the figure of $80m is mentioned - when there were other underbidders up to the $200m level. Second, I've been told that the underbidder to $400m was not from the Middle East, from a source who would know. Anyway, it's all a good tale, and if the yacht is ever renamed Salvator Mundi, we'll know that someone has a good sense of humour.

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