“I want to have the experience and the emotion,” said Adam Patrizia, 38, one of about 100 people waiting patiently in the rain outside Christie’s New York headquarters Monday. He was about to get up close to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which has been guaranteed to sell at auction this week for over $100 million.
The renowned artist’s painting of Christ as “Savior of the World,” dating from about 1500 and rediscovered in 2005, has created huge levels of media and public interest during its pre-auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and now New York. Christie’s said that by Wednesday, when the work is offered for sale, more than 27,000 people will have seen the painting firsthand — its highest number of viewers for an individual work of art, according to the auction house.Continue reading the main story
Some 4,500 stood in line here over the weekend, enlivening a preview of Impressionist, modern and contemporary works that is normally the preserve of art-world insiders. (The other Leonardo — DiCaprio — was among the celebrity visitors skipping the lines, along with Alex Rodriguez, Patti Smith and Jennifer Lopez).
“I want to have it for a moment in time,” said Mr. Patrizia, who lives in New York and works in hospitality. He added that “the marketing has been impressive.” Mr. Patrizia was particularly struck by the Bill Viola-style video, created by the advertising agency Droga5, which Christie’s used to promote what it has billed as “The Last da Vinci,” the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection. Some 15 others are held in the world’s museums.
The video recorded the moment when selected viewers felt “the real-life emotions that this painting, its beauty and divine subject matter stirred in the people who came to see it,” according to the accompanying text.Continue reading the main story
Nina Doede, 65, a former financial manager based in New York, experienced the kind of heightened emotional reaction that psychologists have identified as Stendhal syndrome, or hyperkulturemia, an effect caused by aesthetic euphoria.
“Standing in front of that painting was a spiritual experience,” Ms. Doede said. “It was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes,” she added, as she left the sepulchral chamber where the painting is displayed.
Marc Sands, Christie’s chief marketing officer, said it was the auction house’s first-ever use of an outside agency to advertise an artwork. Sharp-eyed observers noticed that the typeface used for Droga5’s online campaign was remarkably similar to the one that promoted the 2006 movie, “The Da Vinci Code,” based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. Mr. Sands said any similarity was “entirely coincidental.”
Scholars generally refer to a work by the artist as a “Leonardo,” but, as Mr. Sands explained, “da Vinci” has “much higher levels of recognition.”
The “Salvator Mundi” is being sold by the family trust of the Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million and had never exhibited the work in public before now. The sense that this is rare opportunity to view a Leonardo was elevated in New York, where no museum collection contains a painting by the artist.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington possesses the only example in North America. The museum paid over $5 million in a private transaction in 1967 (roughly $36.4 million in today’s dollars) to secure “Ginevra de’ Benci,” a portrait from the 1470s. No other painting by the artist has appeared on the open market in the last 100 years.
“It’s the 16th Leonardo painting,” said Dianne Dwyer Modestini, based in New York, who restored the “Salvator Mundi.” The painting, showing Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crystal orb, was bought by an unrecognized dealer in 2005, in an overpainted and damaged condition.
While Christie’s claims “an unusually uniform scholarly consensus” that the painting is by Leonardo, some respected experts on Renaissance art who have seen the work have failed to succumb to Stendhal syndrome.
“Even making allowances for its extremely poor state of preservation, it is a curiously unimpressive composition and it is hard to believe that Leonardo himself was responsible for anything so dull,” wrote Charles Hope, an emeritus professor at the Warburg Institute at the University of London, in his 2012 review of a National Gallery exhibition that included the “Salvator Mundi.”
Ms. Modestini, the restorer, said in an interview that she hopes the work will ultimately be on public view in a museum. “It’s easy to be negative about a damaged picture, and you can argue that a section of drapery might have been painted by a studio assistant, but this should be allowed to live as a Leonardo rather than be someone’s trophy,” she said.
On Wednesday night, auction watchers will find out how many bidders with $100 million to spend have been stirred — and their wallets shaken — by the “Savior of the World.”Continue reading the main story