The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. 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.
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.
Prince Bader has no history as a major art collector but is a friend and associate of Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Times said.
On Wednesday, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced that the record-breaking Da Vinci painting would be displayed there.
And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a NY art auction by one of his associates, Prince Mohammed's extravagance had already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan's 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars.
The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.
Auction house Christie's has also steadfastly declined to identify the buyer, whose purchase in NY for $450.3 million stunned the art world.
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According to International Business Times, Bader keeps a very low profile.
Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of governing a commission overseeing the development of Al Ola, which contains an important archaeological site.
By that point, bidders were whittled down to two. The auction took 19 minutes. The final price of $450m includes fees for the auction.
Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly used another Saudi prince as a proxy for the purchase.
The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4m for Pablo Picasso's painting Women of Algiers (Version O). Many were beaten, and only released from the gilded cage of Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel after agreeing to hand over assets worth billions of dollars.
A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the mystery buyer of the $450.3million Leonardo da Vinici painting of Christ that is now heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi in a coup for the bold new museum.
He is also seen as the mastermind of last month's rounding-up of more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen in a sweeping anti-corruption purge.