The truth Salvator Mundi has been hidden away since its record auction purchase in 2017, but a miniature version of the $450 million painting will be on display in London this week.
The contemporary twist on the famous Renaissance work is courtesy of artist Simon Fujiwara. To create the Salvator Mundi Experience, the English artist has hung several scaled-down reproductions in a model museum just big enough for one person to stand in at a time. Fujiwara created the 360 degree experience with London architect David Kohn. The work is part of a collective exhibition involving artists and architects which opens on Thursday 14 February at the Whitechapel Gallery.
“At the scale of the miniature, the relationship of visitors to the painting and to the story changes dramatically,” the Berlin artist explains to artnet News. “What started out as a story of massive personalities and world politics suddenly becomes small and under everyone’s control.”
The world expected to see the best-selling masterpiece unveiled at Louvre Abu Dhabi last September, just under a year after it was sold at Christie’s in 2017. But so far the exhibition has been postponed sine die without explanation. (Salvator Mundi gained notoriety last fall when evidence showed that its alleged buyer, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi – and again when the painting became entangled in a conspiracy theory about #Russiagate.)
Fujiwara and Kohn wanted to strip the painting of the controversy, hype, and mystique surrounding its attribution, ownership, and location. “It’s a major public interest story that’s designed to get maximum attention, but at its core it’s utterly blank and empty,” the artist explains.
Fujiwara’s art often unpacks popular narratives, such as the Salvator Mundi saga, while further mythologizing them. Recently, he recreated Anne Frank’s hidden house in a gallery in Tel Aviv.
But the artist is not particularly interested in seeing the real Salvator Mundi, or in the commotion generated by its exorbitant price. Instead, he wants to reframe the relationship of viewers to composition. He hopes that looking at the painting in miniature, within his own little museum, will encourage them to feel less cynical and more ‘loving’ about the work. “Madness is contained,” says Fujiwara. “It’s like watching something that happened in the past. You come to accept it.
the Salvator Mundi Experience is one of ten installations and pavilions commissioned by renowned artists in collaboration with architects for the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition “Is This Tomorrow?”
Curated by curator Lydia Yee, the show is a futuristic update to her groundbreaking 1956 exhibition of the same name. Collaborations in the latest iteration include British architect David Adjaye and Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga; Chinese artist Cao Fei and Chinese architecture firm mono; and Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum and artist Rana Begum.
“Is it tomorrow? is on view from February 14 to May 12 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.