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Lee on Leonardo (once again): BBC Radio Quizes Me on “Salvator Mundi” Conundrums (Corrected)

I was surprised on Sunday when the NY Times ran a long front-page article about the status (or lack thereof) of the $450.3-million Leonardo da Vinci that has unaccountably fallen off the public’s radar screen. The Times piece was merely a detailed summary of all the reporting that has preceded it (including numerous posts that appeared on CultureGrrl), even though it was posted from Abu Dhabi, where the painting was thought to have been destined for display.

I assume that Times reporter David Kirkpatrick‘s hope of getting something new from officials of the Louvre Abu Dhabi (where the painting was supposed to have been displayed, but still hasn’t appeared), or from officials of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism didn’t bear fruit.

I was even more surprised when I got a call from BBC Radio 5, which wanted to interview me about the painting’s stale trail on its live news show for insomniacs—Up All Night with Rhod Sharp.

BBC Radio 5 journalist Rhod Sharp

Go to 24:00 of the audio for tonight’s broadcast (labeled: 3/4/2019—Brit-speak for Apr. 3, 2019), to hear my 9 minutes of BBC fame as I tried to provide some new commentary for an old story.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post gave the wrong time for the audio. (1:24 a.m., London time, was when it aired, but now that it’s concluded, the time on the audio is given as 24:00 (24 minutes into the program’s audio), as corrected above. Thanks to all of you who alerted me to this and expressed frustration at not having the benefit of my wisdom (?!?).

In the interest of accuracy, let me warn you about two flubs: In his introduction, Rhod said that the winning Leonardo bid was placed by Christie’s head of old masters. It was actually done by Alex Rotter, the auction house’s chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art. Counterintuitively (but successfully), the Leonardo was included in the Contemporary Art sale: That’s where the money is.

I goofed too: Admitting to uncertainty, I answered Sharp’s question about the previous art auction record (before the Leonardo) by suggesting it might have been Munch‘s The Scream. It was actually this $179.37-million Picasso. (Where’s Bloomberg‘s Katya Kazakina when I really need her? It was her tweet that might have tipped off Sharp to contact me.)

As far as I can determine, there is no embed code that would allow me to put this audio on my blog, and it will self-destruct in a month, so go here (at 24:00-33:00) and listen while you (and I) still can.

At the end, you’ll hear me talk about what could be regarded as a modest consolation prize for the Leonardo-deprived Louvre Abu Dhabi. This oil sketch of Jesus cost a mere £9.48 million last December at Sotheby’s, London. It’s now in the permanent collection of the museum, which describes it as “the first work by Rembrandt known to have been acquired for a public collection in the Gulf region”:

Rembrandt, “Study of the Head and Clasped Hands of a Young Man as Christ in Prayer”

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