A da Vinci painting returns to royalty… but on a yacht


June 13, 2019

Today, the Philippine mango biz tackles its glut and Broadway may be in a paradoxical rut, but first…
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The world’s priciest private painting royally reappears on Saudi prince’s superyacht

The Salvator Mundi — a portrait of a softly smiling Christ allegedly painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1500 AD — became the world’s most valuable painting when it sold for $450.3m in 2017.

Then, it disappeared.

It’s a surprisingly common occurrence in the world of high-profile art: Privately owned paintings briefly go on public tours to drum up interest — and then sell to mystery buyers and disappear from public view.

But now, thanks to an unorthodox art sleuth, the mystery of the Mundi has been solved. The Salvator Mundi — like many of the world’s finest paintings — ended up aboard a billionaire’s yacht.

The strange saga of the Mundi

For centuries, the Mundi lorded over the royal residences of kings of France, England, and Scotland. But in the 18th century, it fell into obscurity. 

In 1958, the by-then-unknown Mundi sold for the equivalent of $1.4k. But when it was resold in 2011, the lordly Leonardo painting was recognized — and it rapidly regained its rightful royal reputation. 

In 2017, the world’s last private da Vinci sold to a private buyer, sending waves rippling across the murky waters of the art world.

The Mundi’s roundabout return to its royal roots 

After the sale, reports soon bubbled to the surface that the Mundi’s buyer was an obscure Saudi prince.

A few months later, the Saudi royal family appointed that same prince as the kingdom’s first “minister of culture,” and a tourism official announced the painting would go on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Instead, the painting again disappeared. 

Now, the Mundi has resurfaced aboard the superyacht of Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia — likely the plan all along.

The strange world of superyacht super-art

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince isn’t the only billionaire to consign the world’s artistic wonders to a waterborne wealth-warehouse: A few months ago, The Guardian reported that many of the world’s wealthiest have basically turned their mega-yachts into marine museums.

According to the report, some yachts carry as many as 800 pieces of art (often worth multiple times the vessels’ value). 

We know what you’re thinking: Renaissance-era art and rough seas — what could go wrong?

But seawater may be the least of the Mundi’s problems: Art advisors say they’ve seen boat-bound art stained by cereal spills, damaged by champagne corks, and even sliced into pieces to fit inside the jet-ski room.

Yacht-a be kiddin’ me
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Despite booming business, a streaming startup is causing drama on Broadway

Broadway had a big year — attendance (14.7m butts in seats) and revenue ($1.8B) both broke records.

So it would seem strange to say that the future of New York’s theater industry is in danger — but that’s exactly the pitch behind BroadwayHD, the growing startup that’s causing drama in the theater industry.

Broadway’s civil war

Two Broadway insiders — Bonnie Comley and Stewart Lane — founded BroadwayHD, the first streaming service for live theater.

BroadwayHD still mostly features old shows. But, at a cost of $8.99 per month, the service still offers 300 shows on platforms like Roku and Google Play.

BroadwayHD’s founders argue streaming will expand Broadway’s audience. But, as The Washington Post reports, traditionalists disagree.

‘To stream or not to stream, that is the question…’ 

Broadway’s 41 theaters, all in the same tiny Manhattan district, are notoriously insular. But supporters argue that exclusivity keeps audiences around, saying streaming will alienate in-person audiences. 

But the link between NYC’s record flood of tourists this year and Broadway’s boom (63% of Broadway attendees are visitors) makes the long-term appeal of streaming hard to ignore… and partners are lining up. 

Netflix recently bought rights to “Springsteen on Boradway,” and Apple and Amazon have opened their doors for producers to distribute their shows digitally.

» So much drama
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What’s the story behind Symphony, the ‘Slack for Wall Street’?

Symphony, a communications app that was developed for bankers and the people who message them, raised $165m at a $1.4B valuation.

The massive funding round came as a surprise to many people who believed the messaging market already had too many big competitors messaging over each other (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, etc.).

But the success of the platform, which was designed with particular tools for banking, shows that niche communications apps can survive in the era of Slack — as long as they’ve got something specific to say.

Unexpectedly sweet noise for Symphony

Symphony’s fat funding round came as a surprise even to Symphony CEO David Gurlé, who says he only planned to raise between $50m and $75m.

But Wall Street plays for keeps — and when bankers are happy, apparently they’re quick to start signing checks.

By creating tools for security and accounting efficiency that are particularly useful for their clients in banking, Symphony expanded from 200k users in 2017 to more than 425k today.

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In the Philippines, mango merchants find themselves in a sticky situation

The Philippines government has a dastardly, delicious dilemma: The country can’t figure out what to do with 2m kilograms of extra mangoes. 

Thanks to weather patterns associated with El Niño, mango farmers grew more mangoes than expected — and the department of agriculture is getting creative to move those mangoes.

Yes, it’s a real problem

It may seem unimaginable to salivating smoothie-sippers, but rock-bottom mango prices would be a really bad deal for Philippine mango farmers.

Already, the mountain of mangoes has caused prices for a mango to fall from $1.12 to about 38¢.

But things will get worse in a few weeks as the mangoes rot, so the government hatched a sweet plan…

To get rid of the ’goes, anything goes

As part of a program called “Metro Mango” the government will install bulk fruit stands all over the capital of Manila.

Then, to really get the people mangoing, the government will sponsor cooking classes and host a mango festival. 

Foreign demand has marginally mitigated mango mania (a Japanese company is looking to order 100,000 kg), but not quite enough: Some farmers have already begun giving their mangoes away for free.

» Mangoing, mangone
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