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Biggest Art Controversy of 2018 (According to me)

Updated: May 15, 2019

As 2018 came to a close, the art news of this year will also become a distant memory. The art world is fickle and is always looking for the next “big thing” so the good and bad of 2018 will soon be forgotten. Banksy’s Sotheby’s stunt of shredding his own work of art, the first AI created portrait being sold at auction, and the controversy over Salvator Mundi (1500). Although, the sale of Salvator Mundi happened in late 2017, there is still a great deal of controversy about the work that has cropped up over the last year.

Salvator Mundi is supposedly a lost Leonard da Vinci painting. Salvator Mundi is Latin for “Savior of the World” and many artists have painted the image of Christ giving the Benediction with his right hand and with a glass orb in his left hand. Da Vinci’s supposed Salvator Mundi image includes both the raised right hand and the glass orb.

The Leonardo painting of Salvator Mundi was thought to be lost. It was most likely painted for Louis XII of France. It may have then traveled to England 125 years later to become part of Charles I collection. It was then recorded in various royal locations around England. It turned up again in 1900, it was damaged due to restoration attempts but even until that time the painting was attributed to Bernardino Luini, a follower of Da Vinci. In 2005 it turned up at an auction in New Orleans. A consortium of art dealers paid $10,000 for it, they believed this was Da Vinci’s long lost Salvator Mundi even though it was an over painted mess that could easily have been a fake.

Salvator Mundi, Jesus Christ, Savior of the World, Christies, Christi
Salvator Mundi before and after from:

In 2011 it was authenticated by several Da Vinci experts and is now attributed to him. However, there are still looming questions about who actually painted Salvator Mundi and the $450,312,500 that it was auctioned for late last year. If you look at the images below of what Salvator Mundi looked like before and after restoration you can see that there is no hint of the original color left, the detail is also hazy. The restored version looks as good as knew, which is the problem I have with the work being considered an original Da Vinci painting. There is so little of Da Vinci left in this work, even if it his, all of his work is almost completely gone. What I mean by that is the way Da Vinci’s paintings look, the essence of Da Vinci’s genius is now non-existent.

When Salvator Mundi went to auction at Christie’s only a handful of art critics stood up to be counted amongst those who did not believe it was a real Da Vinci. Only since its sale have other Da Vinci experts stepped forward to challenge its authenticity, most believe it was painted by one of his studio assistants.

To add to the mystery surrounding Salvator Mundi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi who eventually were revealed as the new owners of the painting was to mount an exhibition in 2018 with Salvator Mundi as its centerpiece. The show has since been postponed and currently there is no date it has been rescheduled for. So the world is wondering why the museum has postponed the exhibition and if it may have anything to do with its authenticity.

To read more about this story there are several articles and news sites that have carried it and you can Google it but here are a few links you may find interesting:

Abu Dhabi Louvre Abu Dhabi assistant studio assistant Savior of the World Jesus Christ

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