The painting will be part of the permanent exhibition of one of the dozens of museums to be built in the country in the coming years.
Three years ago, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Savior of the World” was bought for $450 million at the Christie’s auction and, surrounded by a huge plume of theories, conjectures, and assumptions associated with both the painting and its purchase, disappeared from the public eye. And while the world was wondering where Savior of the World had gone, Saudi Arabia methodically drafted a global plan to reorganize its own cultural landscape, the details of which were made public through the recent publication of The Wall Street Journal.
Over the next decade, the Saudi government intends to build more than a dozen major art institutions, and even more, smaller ones, in the hope of attracting tourists and adding up to $27 billion annually to the country’s economy, according to the publication, Deputy Minister of Culture Hamad bin Mohammed Fayez. The plan is part of a global campaign to restore the country’s economy and reputation, the full implementation of which is currently estimated at $64 billion.
It is expected that “Savior of the World” will become one of the many points of attraction for tourists. And that is why the public demonstration of the work has been postponed until the opening of the new museum complex. Representatives of the art institutes of Saudi Arabia separately note that the painting by Da Vinci should not be considered the main star of the art world of the country. Some of its cultural leaders say they do not want the attention given to the “Saviour of the World” to overshadow other works they want to showcase. According to them, the main focus of the future art center should be Saudi Arabian culture and Islamic art.
“It’s a matter of perception. What can we say about Saudi identity if we make this picture our showcase?” – said Stefano Carboni, CEO of the State Commission for New Museums. He also noted that the commission is now planning to build a museum of Western art that could potentially exhibit Da Vinci and should be located next to another museum focused on Islamic art.
The situation surrounding the masterpiece by Da Vinci indicates that the cultural identity of Saudi Arabia is under pressure. It should not be forgotten that this 500-year-old work depicts Christ with his hand raised in a blessing gesture – this alone can be seen as a potentially provocative subject for a country that prides itself on being the homeland of Islam.
However, the plans recently released by Saudi Arabia are one of the most ambitious and ambitious art projects aimed at the widest possible audience.
“We have been a closed country for so long and now people have a chance to get to know us,” said Deputy Minister of Culture Fayez. – A lot has been written about one particular painting, but we have to focus on the big things we are trying to do. The desire to make these plans a reality is so great that officials separately noted that they are not afraid of the Coronavirus pandemic, the oil crisis, and austerity measures, saying their plans are long-term and will continue despite the current impact on global tourism. “Culture does not stop at COVID-19,” Fayez added. – We are not stopping, we are moving forward.
This move forward is a big step for a country that a few years ago banned public art as well as cinemas, operas, and rock concerts, and is now beginning to participate in many international art events, increasing its weight and presence in all areas of the art industry.