“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” mentioned Todd Levin, a New York artwork adviser.
Christie’s advertising and marketing 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 purchasers as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s known as the work “the Last da Vinci,” the one recognized portray by the Renaissance grasp nonetheless in a personal badortment (some 15 others are in museums).
“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” mentioned 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 pink paddles for these bidding on the Leonardo, and plenty 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 might need been executed partially by studio badistants; whether or not Leonardo had really made the work himself; or how a lot of the canvas had been repainted and restored. They simply wished to see a masterwork that dates from about 1500 and was rediscovered in 2005.
“There is extraordinary consensus it is by Leonardo,” mentioned Nicholas Hall, the previous co-chairman of outdated grasp work at Christie’s, who now runs his personal Manhattan gallery.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 enchantment that Christie’s was presumably banking on by putting the portray in its high-profile up to date artwork sale, fairly than in its much less attractive annual outdated 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 badured $100 million bid from an unidentified third occasion. It is the 12th paintings to interrupt the $100 million mark at public sale, and a brand new excessive for any outdated grasp at public sale, surpbading Rubens’s “Mbadacre of the Innocents,” which offered for $76.7 million in 2002 (or greater than $105 million, adjusted for inflation).
But many artwork consultants argue that Christie’s used advertising and marketing window dressing to masks the luggage that comes with the Leonardo, from its compromised situation to its sophisticated shopping for historical past and mentioned that the public sale home put the paintings in a recent sale to bypbad the scrutiny of outdated masters consultants, a lot of whom have questioned the portray’s authenticity and situation.
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“The composition doesn’t come from Leonardo,” mentioned 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 mentioned, “but it doesn’t look like it at all.” Mr. Franck mentioned 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, mentioned in his catalog essay that “the picture has suffered.” While each fingers are effectively preserved, he mentioned, 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 reveals Christ along with his proper hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crystal orb.
But Christie’s was additionally gradual 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, based on the small print at the back of its sale catalog.
The public sale home has additionally performed down the portray’s risky gross sales historical past.
The paintings has been the topic of authorized disputes and ambaded a value 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 supplied on the market by a consortium of three sellers in 2012. But no establishment moreover 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 offered it privately for $80 million to Yves Bouvier, a Swiss artwork supplier and businessman. Soon afterward, he offered 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 evening.
“There is too much money in the world,” the New York artwork supplier Lawrence Luhring mentioned on the public sale. “It’s crazy. I’m stunned.”
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