Da Vinci, Warhol pieces could fetch US$150m

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 12, 2017.

Christ as Salvator Mundi.

Sixty Last Suppers.

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Two paintings by art icons could fetch US$150 million (RM633 million) in a New York auction next month.

Christie’s has valued Christ as Salvator Mundi, a small painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, at about US$100 million. A monumental canvas by Andy Warhol, inspired by Da Vinci’s famous Last Supper, could go for US$50 million. Both works will be offered during an evening auction of postwar and contemporary art on Nov 15.

Partnering an Old Master painting with Warhol’s Sixty Last Suppers appealed to the Da Vinci seller, according to Christie’s.

“A guy like Da Vinci doesn’t get old,” said Loic Gouzer, Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art in New York. “This is typically a work that’s priceless.”

Da Vinci’s piece was painted around 1500, and depicts Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right hand in benediction. It’s the artist’s last known painting in private hands, Christie’s said. The artwork was part of an international legal battle, pitting the current owner, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, against a Swiss art dealer who sold him the painting.

Warhol’s 1986 work, made a year before the pop artist’s death, depicts The Last Supper 60 times in black and white. The huge grid, 32 feet wide, has 10 columns and six rows.

Both works are guaranteed to be sold by third parties, according to the auction house. Christie’s declined to comment on the seller’s identity. The painting once belonged to art dealer Larry Gagosian, who exhibited it in Abu Dhabi in 2010.

Warhol got the idea for a group of works based on Da Vinci’s late 15th century painting Last Supper from Milan-based art dealer Alexander Iolas, according to Christie’s. The artist made more than 100 different Last Supper works, some freehand style, some showing outlines, others in silkscreen. In 1986, 22 of these works were displayed in a space across from the Santa Maria delle Grazie church — home of the original work — and viewed by 30,000 people.

The Warhol auction record belongs to Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), a 1963 silkscreen painting that sold for US$105.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2013. The most expensive Last Supper — a 40-by-40-inch canvas — was auctioned for US$18.7 million to billionaire jeweller Laurence Graff. — Bloomberg