King Salman names ‘Salvator Mundi’ buyer as new culture minister


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a number of royal decrees, including naming a young prince who is close to his son and heir as head of a newly established Culture Ministry early on Saturday.

The new Minister of Culture, Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, was identified last year by the New York Times as the mystery buyer of a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus, the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

The Wall Street Journal reported the prince had acted as a proxy for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he purchased the “Salvator Mundi” painting. The Saudi Embassy in Washington said Prince Bader purchased the painting on behalf of the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum in the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

Prince Bader is a contemporary of the 32-year-old crown prince and the two attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time, according to the New York Times. In 2015, Prince Bader was appointed as chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which publishes major Arabic newspapers and which had long been under the control of King Salman’s branch of the family.

In another decree early on Saturday, the king relieved Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al Sheikh from his longtime post as head of the Islamic Affairs Ministry. He had served in the post for nearly 20 years until 2014, was replaced for three months and then re-appointed in 2015.

Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Sheikh, another member of the Al Sheikh family, was appointed to succeed him.