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Logistics challenges face Louvre Abu Dhabi’s US $450m Leonardo Da Vinci painting

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has purchased the world's most expensive painting, a Leonardo Da Vinci portrait for US $450-million, but how will it be transported from New York to the UAE?
The painting is widely considered to be the most expensive in the world.
The painting is widely considered to be the most expensive in the world.

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi in December announced that it would be the new home of the world’s most expensive painting, a US $450-million portrait by Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci.

The artwork was bought by the Department of Culture and Tourism.

"Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi," the museum said in tweets in both English and Arabic.

"Salvator Mundi" - dated to around 1500 - is the last known Da Vinci in the hands of a private collector. It was long believed to be a copy but was finally authenticated about a dozen years ago.

We spoke with fine art logistics industry expert Gus VanGeijtenbeek, regional manager for Crown Fine Art and asked for his comments. “I have seen art works like this transported within a custom-made bullet-proof Kevlar case,” he said.

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Artworks of this nature will require exceptional and very careful logistics arrangements for its journey to Abu Dhabi, according to VanGeijtenbeek.

Speaking generally about the logistics behind priceless artworks, VanGeijtenbeek said that the exact measures in place for Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi would depend on the requirements of the insurance agency.

“Artworks such as these are usually transported by what we call ‘courier accompanied”, whereby there is an official from either the insurance agency or the owner following the artwork through each stage of the journey,” he told Logistics Middle East.

“The individual will supervise the work even on the tarmac when it is loaded in the cargo hold of the aircraft,” he added.

According to VanGeijtenbeek, the actual transport of the artwork is a small part of the work involved in its logistics, with the planning process being the most time consuming element.

“The minutia of the project will be examined well in advance,” he explains. “What route will be taken from the airport, how the painting will be physically carried to its display area, how it will be unpacked, every aspect of the journey is examined and planned well in advance, often with officials from a company like Crown Fine Art doing a walkthrough to ensure there are no unforeseen risks.”

It is unclear when the painting will be flown from Christie’s in New York to Abu Dhabi.

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