Reviewed by Adam Donato
The commercial art industry is a lot more sketchy than one would think. When an unreal piece of art enters the fray, the entire world takes notice. Is it real or is it fake? While that should be for the experts to decide, they can’t. So it might just be up to you. The winner of the New Documentary Director for Ballroom Dancer back in 2011, Andreas Koefoed, attempts to get the story straight when it comes to the most controversial piece of art in modern history. Is this documentary worth a record amount at auction or is it relegated to a publicity stunt?
This very well could’ve been an entire story about a bunch of stuffy old people describing how to restore a painting. Of course, some of this story is about that, but the rabbit hole that this documentary goes down is wild. It's a story about global politics and integrity that makes it feel larger than life. The event in question is so recent and so large scale that it will make audiences wonder how they don’t remember hearing about this in the news when it happened.
Just under a decade ago, a painting was found that turned out to potentially be attributed to the all-time great, Leonardo Da Vinci. Painted on a poor-quality piece of wood with plenty of wear and tear, the beginning of the documentary dissects the legitimacy of the work of art. Some skeptics don’t think the painting went under the utmost scrutiny to be undeniably defined as a Da Vinci piece. The painting then goes on to sell for a record amount to an anonymous buyer. This is such a dense subject that is ripe for a documentary. There’s so much to explore here and it is quite the ride.
There is a flurry of interviews of experts close to the situation that bring a good amount of insight into the events surrounding the painting. One of the experts, in particular, adds quite a bit of heart to the story. Dianne Dwyer Modestini had her whole life consumed by this painting. After restoring it and making some money for her involvement in the distribution, she made a website with all of the information that she has learned about the painting to defend its legitimacy. Especially since there are several villainous figures prevalent in the interviews, Modestini stands out as the hero of the story.
This industry-defining work of art is most certainly deserving of its own documentary. Clocking in at a 100 minute run time, this story never drags. Not only does this entry seem like the best of Koefoed’s career, but this review projects it to be in the conversation for best documentary at the end of the year. Hopefully this doc sheds some light on a dying industry because whether or not the painting is authentic, it is a conversation. This is certainly worth anyone’s time to become part of the conversation.
The Lost Leonardo hits theaters on August 13.