The buyer of the most expensive painting in the world, the "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci, was found to be Saudi Arabian prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. The painting was sold Nov. 15 for $450 million.
Prince Bader belonged to a remote branch of the royal family and had no history of being an art collector, according to a report by the New York Times. He did not even have a huge source of financial resources, which was known publicly. The report said Prince Bader was an associate and also a friend of the Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The buyer of the painting was revealed through certain documents reviewed by the New York Times. The report stated the purchase happened at a time when members of the royal family and even the elite in the Saudi Arabia are being scrutinized as part of a crackdown on corruption.
According to some documents obtained from Saudi Arabia, it was revealed Prince Bader’s representatives did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale of the painting took place. The prince maintained such a low-key figure that the members of the auction house Christie had a tough time establishing his identity and financial means.
The report added after Prince Bader made a deposit of $100 million to qualify for the auction, Christie’s lawyers reportedly questioned the prince regarding his financial sources and relationship with the crown prince.
Prince Bader reportedly claimed real estate was his main source of finance. Without elaborating, he also added he was just one of the 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia.
The report went on to describe the family of Prince Bader. He belonged to a lesser branch of the royal family, the Farhan, who descended from a brother of an 18th century ruler of Saudi Arabia. Prince Bader, according to the report, was a contemporary of Prince Mohammed. They both attended the King Saud University, Riyadh, at the same time. When King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed to overlook most of the governmental activities, Prince Bader was asked to take over high positions by the prince. One such position was linked closely to the family.
Prince Bader was also made the chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which is controlled by the Salman branch of the royal family. According to the report, Prince Bader was appointed the governor of a new commission, headed by Prince Mohammed, which will work towards turning the Al Ola province into a tourist area.
According to the website of a Saudi Arabian energy company, Energy Holdings International, Prince Bader was said to be “one of Saudi Arabia’s youngest entrepreneurs.” The description also goes on to say Prince Bader was “active” in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the Middle East for over five years. This can be linked to what he said to the lawyers of Christie regarding his financial sources.
The website also added Prince Bader was one of the “founding members” of a large recycling business that presently has the world’s largest waste management and recycling facility.
The New York Times report said Prince Bader took part in the auction of the painting through telephone on Nov. 15. He was represented by Alex Rotter, who was the co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s. The report stated the price of the painting went up to $400 million, which ended the auction with Prince Bader winning the bid. The extra $50 million was included due to the additional fee that has to be paid by the buyer.
On Wednesday, the newly opened branch of Louvre in Abu Dhabi posted a tweet saying the “Salvator Mundi” was coming to their museum. This could be because Prince Mohammed is a supporter and ally of Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.