Is The Saudi Crown Prince Mystery Buyer Of $450M Da Vinci Painting?

Is The Saudi Crown Prince Mystery Buyer Of $450M Da Vinci Painting?

Making a record-breaking art purchase in his own name might be awkward for the crown prince because he is leading a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment by the elite of the kingdom - including some of his royal cousins.

The Times said documents provided by a Saudi source showed Bader was not presented as a bidder until the day before the 15 November sale in NY. Christie's pressed him to establish both his identity and the source of his money. U.S. intelligence reports, it seems, corroborated this version of events, noting that Prince Bader has previously collaborated with MBS on various deals and transactions.

A Saudi art world figure told the Wall Street Journal that "this deal was done via a proxy".

However, he is chairman of Saudi Research and Marketing Group, a holding company for a number of media businesses.

The painting will be exhibited at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Louvre, according to a tweet by the museum yesterday. Prince Bader is close to Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who recently had hundreds of the country's princes, businessmen, and government officials arrested, accusing them of having made billions illicitly. Last week, the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reported bin Salman had posed for selfies there with locals and went "dune-bashing" in a buggy. The description also noted that Bader has been "active" in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the Middle East for over five years. A spokeswoman for Christie's said it did not comment on the identities of any buyer or seller without their permission.

According to International Business Times, Bader keeps a very low profile.

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Bidding opened at $100m and began jumping by increments of up to $10m. When bidding reached $330m, Bader offered $350m.

The young and dynamic crown prince, known by his initials MBS, used an intermediary to buy the much-sought-after painting of Christ, Salvator Mundi, the newspaper reported, citing USA intelligence and other unnamed sources.

It had sold for a mere 45 British pounds in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005. Most are being detained at a luxury hotel in the capital, Riyadh.

Da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence.

Documents provided from inside Saudi Arabia and reviewed by The Times reveal that representatives for the buyer, Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale.

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