‘The Lost Leonardo’ Review: Art, Money and Oligarchy
To paraphrase John Lennon, Leonardo da Vinci is a concept by which world civilization (as it is) measures artistic mastery.
“The Lost Leonardo”, a documentary directed by Danish filmmaker Andreas Koefoed, is a disturbing confirmation of this idea. It is the story of how a painting bought for just over $ 1,000 was quickly identified – if not fully authenticated – as a Leonardo, and ultimately ended up in the hands of a Saudi oligarch who spent over $ 400 million on it. Among other things, this image freshly demonstrates that a conventionally structured documentary can pack the fascination and punch of a skillfully executed fictional thriller.
The globetrotter’s tale begins with Alexander Parish, a self-described “sleeper hunter” – an art buyer who searches for catalog errors – buying the painting “Salvator Mundi” from a New York dealer. Orleans. Together with renowned art historian and restorer Dianne Modestini, Parish and his financial partner Robert Simon determine they have a Leonardo in their hands. And so the film goes from “The Art Game” to “The Money Game”.
In this tale, “The Lost Leonardo” weaves cohesive mini-treatises on catering, art dealers, free ports, the true nature of the auction industry and more. Art critic Jerry Saltz claims painting isn’t just not a Leonardo, but that’s garbage. Writer Kenny Schachter is more thoughtful and contrite in expressing his doubts. Images of viewers reacting to the painting suggest that one can produce a Pavlovian response to a work of art simply by calling it Leonardo. The film also features FBI and CIA figures, New York Times investigative reporter David Kirkpatrick and Leonardo DiCaprio.
It’s a dizzying story. And whether or not you think “Salvator Mundi” is a true Leonardo, it’s ultimately disgusting.
The lost Leonardo
Rated PG-13 for language. In English and French with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.
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