Controversial Da Vinci is New York auction season star

A security guards stands near “Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci during a news conference at Christie’s in New York lat month. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2017
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Controversial Da Vinci is New York auction season star

NEW YORK: What is the only Da Vinci painting on the open market worth? A Russian billionaire believes he was swindled when he bought it for $127.5 million. This week he’ll find out if he was right.
“Salvator Mundi,” a painting of Jesus Christ by the Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500, is the star lot in New York’s November art auctions that will see Christie’s and Sotheby’s chase combined art sales of more than $1 billion.
It goes under the hammer at Christie’s on Wednesday, something of an incongruous lot in the post-war and contemporary evening sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of international billionaire art collectors.
The auction house, which declines to comment on the controversy and identifies the seller only as a European collector, has valued it at $100 million.
“Look at the painting, it is an extraordinary work of art,” said Francois de Poortere, head of the old master’s department at Christie’s. “That’s what we should focus on.”
But the price will be closely watched — not just as one of fewer than 20 paintings by Da Vinci’s hand accepted to exist, but by its owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of soccer club AS Monaco who is suing Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier in the city-state.
Rybolovlev accuses Bouvier of conning him out of hundreds of million dollars in parting with an eye-watering $2.1 billion on 37 masterpieces. One of those works was “Salvator Mundi” which has been exhibited at The National Gallery in London.
Bouvier bought the Da Vinci at Sotheby’s for $80 million in 2013. He resold it to the Russian tycoon for $127.5 million.
The painting’s rarity is difficult to overstate. For years it was presumed to have been destroyed. In 1958, it fetched £45 and disappeared again for decades, emerging only in 2005 when it was purchased from a US estate.
It was long believed to have been a copy, before eventually being certified as authentic. All other known paintings by Da Vinci are held in museum or institutional collections.
“For auction specialists, this is pretty much the Holy Grail,” Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of Christie’s Americas post-war and contemporary art department, has said. “It doesn’t really get better than that.”
Christie’s has sought to emphasize Da Vinci’s inestimable contribution to art history by hanging “Salvator Mundi” next to Andy Warhol’s “Sixty Last Suppers” — which depicts Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” 60 times over, also on sale with a $50 million estimate.
Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His “The Women of Algiers (Version O)” fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in New York in 2015.
Other highlights being offered by the auction house are “Contraste de formes,” a 1913 Fernand Leger valued at $65 million and “Laboureur dans un champ” by Van Gogh, painted from the window of a French asylum in 1889 valued at $50 million.
Sotheby’s, whose May sales languished behind Christie’s, says it has more than 60 works making their auction debuts this week.
Chief among them is Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of George Dyer,” valued at $35-45 million, and which it says is appearing in public for the first time in 50 years.
Painted in 1966 during his passionate relationship with Dyer, two other such triptychs are in museums and two others have been offered at auction in recent years.
Sotheby’s other star lot is a 1972 Warhol “Mao,” exhibited in Berlin, Turin and Paris, and now back in public view for the first time since 1974. It has been given an estimate of $30-40 million.
Each of the other 10 “Mao” paintings of the same size are in prestigious public and private collections, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Sotheby’s calls it one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.
But for the first time, the house has added a collector car to an art auction, offering Michael Schumacher’s Grand Prix-Winning Ferrari for upwards of $4million on Thursday. But is it a work of art?
“No, it’s not,” says Gregoire Billault, senior Sotheby’s vice president. “But it’s... the very best racing car ever sold at an auction.”


Film Review: ‘Beauty and the Dogs’ takes hard look at an unfeeling society

Updated 20 October 2018
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Film Review: ‘Beauty and the Dogs’ takes hard look at an unfeeling society

CHENNAI: A brutal title, “Beauty and the Dogs” is an electric French-Tunisian drama by Kaouther Ben Hania (“Imams Go to School,” “Zaineb Hates the Snow”), which has been entered as Tunisia’s submission for the best foreign-language film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Although the film is yet to earn a nomination, it is a powerful piece of cinema that deserves recognition.
Based on a real-life incident in 2012, the movie begins at sunset and ends at sunrise and zooms in on a woman traumatized by an unfeeling society. A rather weak script, but bolstered by a strong, moving story mounted on lovely long takes, Hania’s creation is an unflinching look at how a young woman who is raped by a policeman fights a degenerate system.

Hania does not sensationalize and focuses on the aftermath of the horrifying incident when her protagonist, Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani), doggedly pursues the villainous cop, who has all the muscle power and support of his superiors. They try every trick to derail Mariam’s grit and determination.

The movie begins on a note of fun with Mariam attending a college party at a Tunis disco. After a mild flirtation with Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli), the two go for a walk on the beach, where she is raped. We only see Mariam running with Youssef at her heels, and we get a feeling that he is chasing her. But no, she is running away in desperation.

“Beauty and the Dogs” is a hard critique of an unfeeling society. Even a woman police officer that Mariam approaches is uncaring and, worse, throws her back into the den of dogs, so to speak. Earlier, a female attendant at a clinic where Mariam goes for a mandatory physical examination seems contemptuous. The film is littered with points of horrific humiliation for Mariam, something which leads to audience sympathy staying unwaveringly strong.
The film is especially important in the current #MeToo climate, where an international discussion on sexual harassment and rape is taking place from Hollywood to Bollywood but has yet to shake up the Middle East.