The FT’s got an obsession with imagining the art market is a cesspool of illicit activity. The latest comes in an Alphaville post citing both statistics that show a great deal of asset flight from Saudi Arabia and some research on the popularity of art during World War II as a vehicle to get capital out of Europe.
The result has the FT constructing the Salvator Mundi sale as conduit for cash:
- “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia recently transferred hundreds of millions of dollars of his nation’s wealth to a Russian oligarch via a painting of Jesus. Why he did so is unclear. […] Whatever bin Salman’s particular motivation, moving money out of Saudi Arabia is a national pastime.”
It is hard to see how Saudi Arabia’s MBS benefits by having parked his $450m in nearby Abu Dhabi when there’s no evidence the work can be sold anywhere near that level (maybe it can and maybe it can’t but the FT is far more confident the picture is a negotiable instrument than anyone else in the art market.) It’s even harder to imagine how anyone can make a comparison between the existential crisis Europeans faced during the war and present day Saudi Arabia; or, how one could compare ordinary citizens trapped on a continent consumed by a war buying art to preserve some of their evaporating assets and the son of nation’s sovereign who has been given political control of the country.
But, hey, it’s art. So the buyer must have some nefarious ulterior motive.