Sky Arts - The Lost Leonardo (2021) - Documentary

Broadcast 10:30p.m. on Mon 22 May 2023

The Lost Leonardo is the inside story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold at $450 million. From the moment the painting is bought for $1175 at a shady New Orleans auction house, and the restorer discovers masterful Renaissance brushstrokes under the heavy varnish of its cheap restoration, the Salvator Mundi’s fate is determined by an insatiable quest for fame, money and power. As its price soars, so do the questions about its authenticity: is this painting really by Leonardo da Vinci? Unravelling the hidden agendas of the richest men and the most powerful art institutions in the world, The Lost Leonardo reveals how vested interests in the Salvator Mundi are of such tremendous power that truth becomes secondary.

The Lost Leonardo is an internationally co-produced documentary film directed by Andreas Koefoed, released in 2021. It follows the discovery and successive sales of the painting the Salvator Mundi, allegedly a work by Leonardo da Vinci, an artist for whom there are only a few attributed works in existence. The film chronicles the dramatic increases in the painting’s value from its original purchase in 2005 for $1,175 to its auction in 2017 for $450 million, when it became the most expensive artwork ever sold. The use of high-end artwork for hiding wealth, as well as the conflicts created by large commissions and other economic incentives, are explored in the film. It includes interviews with leading art experts and art critics on issues regarding the provenance and authenticity of the work.

The Salvator Mundi is a badly damaged Renaissance painting that, in 2005, no-one wanted even after extensive “conservation” (in effect, repainting) and a dubious attribution to Leonardo by the National Gallery, which raised the asking price to $200m. However, in 2013, a “wealth management” storage specialist secured it for $83m then persuaded a Russian fertiliser oligarch to shell out $127m. Inevitably, the Russian discovered the massive profit and was somewhat annoyed, so he destroyed the storage specialist’s business and put the Salvator Mundi up for auction at Christie’s. They engaged in a massive promotion (using Leonardo DiCaprio) which drew worldwide bidders, including Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, who obliterated the competition with a willingness to go up to $1 billion but forked out only $450 million.

The authenticity of the painting is still contested - it relies on “expert” opinion, since it has only 100 years of provenance and the experts are divided - those with a financial interest in the painting are positive while those without a financial interest are not.

However, although the painting may never be shown in in the West, it may be shown in Saudi Arabia … but just owning and showing it is not the only purpose - its (attributed) value may be used as collateral in securing loans and finalising business deals while the painting itself resides with thousands of other artworks in “wealth management” storage (so-called freeports).

A fascinating account that illustrates the ambiguity of the art world - “It’s Not Just Art…It’s Power, Politics and Greed.”

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I use to enjoy SKY Arts .
I no longer have an aerial so no Freeview , I now watch telly using Amazon fire stick …


So I would expect Sky Arts to be available to you via your internet connection.