the pursuit of authenticity
the “missing link”
Salvator Mundi sold at Christie’s New York, November 15, 2017, for $450.3 million
Such an obscene level of wealth can not uncover the truth of modern times, nor analyse the dark side of aesthetic appraisal. As a subverter of aesthetic certainties, and sold for a stratospheric amount of money, the last Leonardo is the most expensive art work in the world.
While the media are focused on outrageous prices, I wonder aloud “what is happening in the art world?” After an excellent marketing campaign, this discovery affects my conception of reality itself. Christie´s makes art history under the hammer and connoisseurship was irrelevant from the start. Authenticity, attribution, and provenance fall into a crisis.
This heavy impact on the art world can last for centuries. It bends our understanding of reality´s basic parameters.
Salvator Mundi has a contested attribution. The power of art appraisal gives rise to concern. An art journalist opines the bidder earned the distinction of world´s most famous collector. However the buyer´s identity still is unknown.
One sees what he wants to see. The expert´s tunnel vision is not a whim in a case like this. Years ago arrogance was an explanation for accepting fakes . Then we were emotionally involved with fakes ad nauseam. Restorers were much in demand… but today this is not a question of authenticity.
Human frailty is shocked by an unexpected result. Why would anyone pay $450 million for a controversial attribution? This case provides evidence of the values and perceptions of those who were instrumental in organising the farcical sale and of those for whom they were made.
The “missing link”
Fakes taught us the faillibility of experts.
The fake itself is evidence of the historical sense of its maker. Each society, each generation, fakes the thing it covets most. In fact, fakes provide a very good portrait of human desires. Then the purchasers of fakes knew that at the price they are paying they could not be buying the real thing. They were buying an illusion.
This delicate matter, the New York Salvatore Mundi affects our conception of reality itself. The changing boundaries of belief, boundaries that were often marked and sometimes determined by fakes, are evidence of the sense of history possessed by their creators.
If knowledge can never be complete. I mean, if the perception itself is determined by the structure of expectations that underpins it, Salvator Mundi is “the missing” link of an universe of thought, belief and interaction with the world.
The modern eye is dealing with a vanished past.
The pursuit of authenticity depends on an illusion of completeness, people do no want fragmentary examples of old times . So this new concept of authenticity emerged years ago which encouraged us to accept that objects have a continuing history.
Salvator mundi does not lose its value as a relic. He is greeted with rapture by the general public. He is accepted into the canon as a genuine work. What makes him dark, however, also makes him valuable.
Art under the Hammer has shown an obscene level of human stupidity.
A quantum leap!
The Last Leonardo da Vinci. Art critic, Alastair Sooke.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi Discussed by Alastair Sooke & Christie’s Specialists
Salvator Mundi (2011) Documentary
Finding the $450 Million Salvator Mundi: A Love Story.
Robert Simon and Dianne Modestini.
(Analysis by Arts Editor Will Gompetz)