Bought a $450M painting? In NY, don't worry about the tax

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Promoted as an encyclopedic museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to much fanfare last month, and now it appears to have secured a work that is sure to attract tourists from all over the world.

In response to media reports about the sale, the embassy said it contacted the office of Prince Bader, which confirmed the artwork was "acquired" by the Abu Dhabi culture department.

Amid the conflicting reports, the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism issued a statement Friday that it acquired the painting for display at the country's new museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi.

"Christie's can confirm that the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi is acquiring "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci", the auction house said in a statement. The news was quickly followed by a New York Times story identifying Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al Saud as the buyer, citing documents it reviewed.

At Christie's Da Vinci auction, the salesroom was full of millionaires and billionaires, including Point72 Asset Management's Steve Cohen, Blackstone Group LP's Tom Hill, who collects Old Master works, and philanthropist Eli Broad. The statement does not mention Prince Mohammed, the piece's true buyer.

The newspaper said that the work will be lent or resold to museums, largely in the Middle East and Asia.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi said in a tweet Wednesday: "Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi". Da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronnière" is on loan there from the Louvre in Paris.

Apparently, the confusion over its owner stems from the fact that a Saudi prince did indeed make the winning bid on the painting, but he was doing so as a representative for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

It had sold for a mere £45 in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005. It was restored and authenticated, before being sold to its most recent owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, for $127.5 million.

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