Even if money’s nothing but an abstract concept, $450.3 million is a whole lot of conceptual smackeroos. Even if that figure includes a buyer’s premium, $450.3 million is a nearly unfathomable sum to fork over for single work of art at auction. Even if that work of art is a legit da Vinci painting…
The art world and its orbital bodies are still rattled by Christie’s history-shattering sale of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi  last evening. Despite its muddy provenance, the picture is already an innately incredible object; slapping a price tag like that on the image only bolsters awe and admiration of it.
An art piece is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, so it’s said. Yet no matter the jaw-dropping amount paid for Salvator Mundi, its true significance will now be determined by what its anonymous new owner chooses to do with their hard-won prize.
A quasi-priceless treasure locked away in a Swiss bank vault holds no greater value for society.
Da Vinci’s richness of mind and spirit will cease to flow from his singular depiction of Christ unless it is allowed to be further demystified by art historians and conservationists, unless it is lent out to global exhibitions. Unless it continues to instill the same hallowed sense of inspiration in all walks of life, as displayed in Christie’s chiaroscuroed-to-high-heaven, blockbuster advert for the sale of this supposed last-of-its-kind painting.
The flashbang at the auction block has detonated, now the old master’s dust begins to resettle. Just hope that when this frenzied vista has finally cleared, Salvator Mundi will be seen in public time and again. If hoarded away, as private acquisitions are wont to be, da Vinci’s personal messiah won’t tally up to much more than cold, hard capital expertly sfumatoed across a worm-eaten panel.
Emily Catrice

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, circa 1500, Oil on walnut panel, Christie’s


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