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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

The Lost Leonardo

How this documentary, released in the summer of 2021, failed to be nominated for the Academy Awards’ best documentary feature is a mystery and a shame. In a taut 90 minutes, The Lost Leonardo takes viewers through one of the craziest stories to come out of the art world in the past 25 years. By now you’re probably familiar with Salvator Mundi, the “lost” Leonardo da Vinci painting that was snapped up at auction two years ago for $450 million (reportedly by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud), making it the most expensive painting ever purchased. What you probably don’t know is the incredible story of its journey—from being “discovered” in New Orleans by an art historian who bought it for $1,175 to the scammers who got London’s National Gallery to validate it, to the Swiss dealer who made a killing selling it to an oligarch. It makes any fictitious caper, such as Ocean’s Eleven, look like amateur hour. —Michael Hainey

Photo courtesy of Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images.