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Leonardo da Vinci’s Christ painting sells for record $450M

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  • NEW YORK — A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at auction on Wednesday, smashing previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

    The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie’s auction house, which didn’t immediately identify the buyer.

    “‘Salvator Mundi’ is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honour that comes around once in a lifetime.”

    The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179 million (152 million euros), for Pablo Picasso’s painting “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015, also at Christie’s in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros), for Willem de Kooning’s painting “Interchange,” sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.

    A backer of the “Salvator Mundi” auction had guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million (85 million euros). The bidding opened at $75 million and ran for 19 minutes. The price hit $300 million about halfway through the bidding.

    People in the auction house gallery applauded and cheered when the bidding reached $300 million and when the hammer came down on the final bid, $400 million. The record sale price of $450 million includes the buyer’s premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house.

    The 26-inch-tall (66-centimetre-tall) Leonardo painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.

    Its path from Leonardo’s workshop to the auction block at Christie’s was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

    The painting was sold again in 1958 and then was acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000 (8,445 euros). The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

    The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million (108 million euros) in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

    Christie’s said most scholars agree the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work’s authorship.

    Christie’s capitalized on the public’s interest in Leonardo, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labeled the painting “The Last Da Vinci.” The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale.

    In New York, where no museum owns a Leonardo, art lovers lined up outside Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view “Salvator Mundi.”

    Svetla Nikolova, who’s from Bulgaria but lives in New York, called the painting “spectacular.”

    “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “It should be seen. It’s wonderful it’s in New York. I’m so lucky to be in New York at this time.”

    ___

    This story has been corrected to show the name of the painting is Latin, not Italian.

    Karen Matthews And Tom McElroy, The Associated Press








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    Arts

    Nova Scotia mulls fate of iconic Annie Leibovitz photography collection

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  • HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government is reviving hopes that a collection of iconic portraits by famed American photographer Annie Leibovitz could be displayed at the provincial gallery.

    The influential works, including an introspective image of the Queen and a portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore, have been stuck in storage at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax as a tax battle was waged in Ottawa.

    A federal cultural board refused to grant the collection a stamp of cultural significance, withholding lucrative tax incentives to the art donor and — as a result — final payment to Leibovitz.

    Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine said the gallery has held ongoing discussions with the photographer’s team but there is “nothing definite.”

    In remarks released Thursday by the province, Glavine said he thinks the fact that Leibovitz hasn’t been fully paid for her work remains a contentious issue.

    However, he said the photographer is optimistic her collection could be exhibited in Nova Scotia.

    “I think there is great opportunity,” Glavine said, noting that there is “immense potential to have her work on display at the art gallery.”

    He added that it’s “not out of the question” that the province could consider helping the gallery pay the exhibition fee to showcase the compelling collection, though he said no request has come to government.

    Nancy Noble, director and CEO of the gallery, said in an email that “negotiations of this nature are sensitive.”

    “We are limited in what we can share at this point in time,” she said. “We know that Nova Scotians and Canadians are eager and excited to see this very special collection, and our priority remains sharing the work of this iconic and celebrated artist in our gallery and across the country.”

    The collection includes a portrait of Whoopi Goldberg bathing in milk, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers, and a striking photo of a naked John Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before the musician was gunned down in front of his New York apartment.

    A wealthy Toronto family donated the multi-million-dollar collection of Leibovitz photographs in June 2013, the largest single donation of one artist to the gallery.

    The Mintz family had purchased the art for an estimated US$4.75-million, with half held back pending the outcome of a cultural panel. But the photos have an appraised value closer to $20-million, Toronto art lawyer Aaron Milrad has said.

    Last year, the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board decided not to grant the bulk of the celebrated collection a certification of cultural significance, which comes with important tax breaks for donors.

    Harley Mintz had previously said his family is disappointed the “spectacular exhibition” of more than 2,000 photos is “tucked away and not available to the public.”

    Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press



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    ‘It’s strength:’ Indigenous women’s art displayed on billboards across Canada

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  • WINNIPEG — Artists are reclaiming space in inner cities and on highways where many Indigenous women have suffered violence or disappeared.

    From June until August, the Resilience Project is putting the work of 50 Indigenous women artists on 167 billboards across the country to show Indigenous women are visible, powerful and should be celebrated.

    Two of the billboards will be on the Highway of Tears, a 700-kilometre stretch of road in northern British Columbia where numerous Indigenous women have been murdered or disappeared.

    The project, which includes photographs, paintings, and multimedia pieces, was produced by the Winnipeg centre Mentoring Artist for Women’s Art as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools. 

    “Resilience for this project is not just the narrow dictionary definition. It’s embodied as endurance, adaptability and sovereignty. It’s strength. It’s not about being a victim,” said curator Lee-Ann Martin.

    “It’s about these women standing as defenders of their cultural sovereignty and proudly expressing that.”

    Racism and exclusion have been part of the development of Canada and Indigenous women specifically have been disenfranchised and misunderstood, Martin said. Indigenous women couldn’t vote federally until 1960, lost their status and rights when they married outside of their communities and, in the art world, their work was classified as crafts, she said.

    Artist KC Adams’s Winnipeg home is adorned with different photo portraits, each with a unique story. Adams said Indigenous women are often only defined through stereotypes.

    “I know a lot of incredible Indigenous females who are going out every day and showing how to lead a good life and yet they are labelled with this victimhood,” said Adams. “This is really a conversation starter on how we need to change our point of view.”

    The Cree and Ojibwa artist uses two images in her Perception photography series, which was initially displayed in Winnipeg, to contrast societal labels with ones Indigenous women give themselves.

    A black-and-white image shows an Indigenous woman and asks whether she is a victim. Another shows the same woman, with a big smile, describing her as a wife, researcher, homeowner and “softball player with a wicked arm.”

    The photos will be on billboards throughout the country and Adams said there is significance in placing them in areas where Indigenous women have faced discrimination and felt fear.

    “It’s super important that we reclaim these spaces and show a different point of view, different perspective and show how powerful we actually are and how we are leaders in our community.”

    Anishinaabe, Dakota and Métis artist Lita Fontaine said when she was beginning her career, no one talked about the trauma of residential schools and the ’60s Scoop, let alone how women experienced either.

    She said it was hard to gain respect as an Indigenous artist, but being included in such a large and visible exhibition is going to “change the landscape.”

    “It brings us in the forefront, finally, because we need to have that voice.”

    Her photograph titled “Mni Wiconi — Water Is Sacred” shows a 2016 demonstration opposing pipelines. Behind a large banner, people hold images of Thunderbird Woman, which Fontaine said has become a powerful symbol for the Indigenous environmental movement and for women.

    To Fontaine, resilience is all about “bouncing back, reclaiming and fighting for what you believe in within yourself and that culture you are from.

    “It’s innate. It’s just in us. It’s natural,” she said. “Resilience is my mother. It’s the grandmothers. Its kookums. It’s the daughters.”

    Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


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