A portrait of the world through the eyes of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi.
In 2011, the Salvator Mundi, a lost Renaissance painting depicting Jesus Christ, was confirmed to be a genuine Leonardo da Vinci. Having belonged to several Royal European collections, it is one of fewer than 20 paintings by da Vinci and the only left in private hands. In 2017, the next chapter saw this lost masterpiece offered in a special lot at Christie’s New York. But with attention, came scrutiny and Christie’s needed to rise above the noise. So we looked to make the sale a sensation, beginning with a name that implied urgency and rarity as we controversially placed this private painting on public display for one last time and secretly captured the real-life reactions of all who came to see it.
The world is watching.
We began with a controversial worldwide tour. Staging viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York. To turn all eyes to this special moment in history we looked to show just how breathtaking this masterpiece was - by not showing it at all. Partnering with Nadav Kander, we placed a hidden camera beneath the work in a contemporary exhibit that hid both camera and lighting in plain sight. As each visitor looked on, The Last da Vinci now looked back. As we gave this portrait of Christ the power to share its own perspective with the world.
Painted in a divine light, we gently captured the raw emotions and reactions of those who came to see the work. Crafting the overwhelming response into a single short film and sharing it with the world. The film was cut to a length of 4:14, a reference to the scripture from the Gospel of John that describes da Vinci’s characterization of Christ in the portrait.
The film became an ode to the Salvator Mundi, a divine moment captured between the painting and the people, encouraging thousands more to catch a final glimpse of The Last da Vinci before it disappeared from the public eye forever.
As queues grew and grew, we posted each and every portrait on a dedicated Instagram account, @thelastdavinci, as people followed Christ to see themselves. Each portrait was captioned with the name and time of visit, a format reminiscent of biblical scripture citation, as we created a feed of reverence.
Real visitors had now become the centerpiece of our campaign and their responses our voice. The campaign created a media sensation, as regular faces, attracted famous faces and new bidders began to stir. Never had something like this been done in support of the sale of a single artwork.
Unmasking the lost masterpiece.
Online, people could examine the extraordinary hallmarks of the piece that led scholars and art historians to confirm this was in fact a genuine Leonardo da Vinci. Reaffirming this lost masterpiece’s place in Da Vinci's influential body of work with a new contemporary relevance as we unveiled the history behind the Salvator Mundi’s checkered past and da Vinci’s divine process.
A pilgrimage to see the painting.
Press, social media and PR announced this global event. While most visitors could never afford the piece, their attendance was essential as we created a new way to speak to prospective buyers through the shared meaning this work held with the people of the world. The response was overwhelming.
As word spread, more than 80,000 people queued to see The Last da Vinci on display, the highest number of presale visitors in history. The approach rocked the art world, sparking a global discussion. People from all walks of life, all over the globe, had queued to get a glimpse of The Last da Vinci. Only strengthening the desirability in buyers eyes and positioning Christie's as a modern, innovative and creative auction house in the mind of future art sellers.
$450.3 million. A new record for a work of art.
On November 15th, our efforts culminated in a record breaking result, as the painting sold for $450.3 million at auction, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. What started as a sale quickly became a discussion on the importance of art and culture, divinity and worth. As we reminded people that although prospective buyers live more rarefied lives, they are still deeply influenced by the rest of us. And the auction house set a new bar for how to create mass attention and drive desirability amongst a few.
The final resting place.
Christie’s had proved they understood the importance of art, finding a way to give new relevance to a 500-year-old piece in the modern day. This ultimately led to the work itself ending up in a public and not private collection at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, by way of the winning bidder, a little known Saudi Prince. A fitting home for the new counterpart to Leonardo’s most famous work, Mona Lisa, and an ideal resting place for the world to continue to watch.