Got $450 million to spare? Me neither. Apparently no one did until last night, when auction house Christie's sold Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" for that astronomical price tag to a “lucky” mystery buyer. The painting, rediscovered in the mid-2000s, shattered the record for priciest art deal (a Picasso sold in 2015) by $271 million--and strangely, many experts aren't convinced of the painting’s authenticity.
In a time when collectors are more interested in contemporary art, how did a painting of questionable provenance fetch such a pretty penny? The answer is savvy branding. Christie’s placed the “Salvator Mundi” in its contemporary art sale rather than its old master auction. Scarcity of old masterworks and changing tastes make the contemporary auctions the stomping grounds of today’s serious collectors; Christie’s placement was a clear play to reach the guys with deep pockets. In an unprecedented move, the centuries old auction house hired a third-party advertising agency to execute an extensive marketing campaign. They branded the work "The Last da Vinci," because it's the "only known painting by the Renaissance Master still in a private collection."
Clearly, it worked. Aside from the record-shattering sale, tens of thousands of people have lined up at viewings around the world to catch a glimpse of the notorious painting.
Considering many experts’ concerns about authenticity, the high-profile sale proves one thing: even art is a business, and branding can make all the difference. This lesson can prove relevant even in our recruiting processes; your credentials may not deem you to be a “prized possession,” but branding yourself appropriately among employers can make you a “must hire.”