Why art's elephant bucks are behind astonishing da Vinci sale

A Christie's staff member posed with Salvator Mundi before the auction Image copyright Getty Images

The sale of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi for $450m is an astonishing price to have realised, given both its condition and authenticity have been questioned.

It shows that ultimately art comes down to belief.

And there were plenty of bidders last night who were suitably convinced by its Leonardo da Vinci attribution to drive the price up to such stratospheric heights.

As yet, the new owner is unknown.

Speculation will be rife. Which I will contribute to, by noting the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi will have a Leonardo shaped hole in its displays when the decade-long loan deal with the French museums comes to an end.

Wherever it ends up, you've got to hand it to Christie's for its masterclass in the art of selling art.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Agents celebrated after buying the painting

In a bold move, without a hint of irony, the painting was sold in its Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale alongside a Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Why not in the Old Masters Sale? Because that's not where the elephant bucks are.

The big money comes into the room nowadays when Pollocks and Twomblys are on the block, and promptly leaves when the Reynolds and Winterhalters arrive.


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