Since its sale at Christie’s, the world’s most expensive painting’s location has been unknown. It was bought by a man called Badr bin Abdullah, who was believed to be acting on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Saman.
Martin Kemp was speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last week. He said: “It is in Saudi Arabia and the country is constructing an art gallery, which is to be finished in 2024, I think. There have been moves to get me out to look at it.”
Martin Kemp did not respond to The Art Newspaper’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Kemp is an emeritus professor of art history at the University of Oxford. He played a crucial role in initially attributing the restored Salvator Mundi to Leonardo da Vinci, after it was sold for just $1,175 to a consortium of art dealers in New Orleans in 2005.
Next year, Saudi Arabia will open the Wadi AlFann, a huge “cultural complex” near the city of AlUla. British curator Iwona Blazwick is advising bin Salman’s kingdom on “cultural initiatives” in the region.
It is unclear if Wadi AlFann could be the site at which Mundi is displayed. Since it was sold in 2017, unconfirmed reports have claimed it is in storage facility in Switzerland, with others putting it onboard bin Salman’s personal yacht.