Saudi prince revealed as buyer of da Vinci

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The announcement comes less than a month after the Louvre Abu Dhabi - the Paris institution's first outpost outside France - opened its doors.

The painting's buyers could be forced to pay the tax if they hired a specialized fine-art shipper to deliver the painting to Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi. Reuters viewed a document showing that Prince Badr bin Abdullah al Saud was authorized to purchase the painting for the department, which thanked him for "agreeing to bid as undisclosed agent for and on behalf of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the artwork".

Instead it is the UAE that has landed the prized work which will now go on display at the museum, which is at the heart of a fast emerging cultural district in the capital.

The question of ownership of "Salvator Mundi", the painting reputedly by Leonardo da Vinci, appears to be as complicated as its provenance and authorship, as the Louvre Abu Dhabi is now claiming the painting was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum itself.

The artist's "Salvator Mundi" (Savior of the World) sold for $450 million during a record-breaking auction at Christie's in November to a buyer reported to be a Saudi prince.

While most are scattered around the world, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will now have two of these paintings.

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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.

U.S. intelligence assessments seen by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal identified Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, as the buyer of the Renaissance artist's work. His statement did not mention the painting or address whether he had bought it. That probably won't happen if the painting is shipped to the Middle East.

NEW YORK - New York collects sales tax on even the smallest items, but it probably won't collect a cent on a almost half-billion dollar painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

New York-based art collector and da Vinci expert Robert Simon and art dealer Alexander Parish found the painting in Louisiana in 2005 and purchased it for US$10,000.

Bought a $450M painting? 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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