According to the New York Times, the buyer is a little-known prince from Saudi Arabia. He is not known for being an art collector or incredibly wealthy, and documents viewed by the Times show that he was such a non-entity in the art scene that Christie's had to quickly figure out right before the auction if he was eligible to bid. The painting was sold November 15 for $450 million.
Christie's representatives attempted to identify Prince Bader and his source of finances before the sale, after he gave a $100 million deposit to qualify for the auction, The Times said.
The nature of the painting - a rendition of Christ - and the timing of the purchase - less than two weeks after the corruption purge - calls into question whether the crown prince has been selectively targeting people in the crackdown, The Times reported. Without elaborating, he also added he was just one of the 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia.
But Prince Mohammed, whom the Times describes as King Salman's favored son and key adviser, has himself been criticized for his spending habits, including impulsively spending half a billion dollars on a yacht a year ago while at the same time slashing capital spending by 71 percent. He belonged to a lesser branch of the royal family, the Farhan, who descended from a brother of an 18th century ruler of Saudi Arabia.
"Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of governing a commission overseeing the development of Al Ola, which contains an important archaeological site". They both attended the King Saud University, Riyadh, at the same time. One such position was linked closely to the family. He now serves as chairman of the Riyadh-based Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which publishes 15 magazines and newspapers, including the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat. This can be linked to what he said to the lawyers of Christie regarding his financial sources.
As for Prince Bader, when he's not palling around with Prince Mohammed, he also works on side projects like partnerships with those ranging from Verizon to Michael Bloomberg, as well as large program he founded to manage the country's recycling.
On Wednesday, the newly opened Louvre in Abu Dhabi museum in the United Arab Emirates tweeted an announcement that the painting is "coming". This could be because Prince Mohammed is a supporter and ally of Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.