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Art, greed, and stealth make for a lively tale of intrigue.

The journey of a Renaissance painting reveals secrets of the contemporary art world.

Art critic and documentary filmmaker Lewis (Horizons, Zones and Outer Spaces: The Art of John Loker, 2019, etc.) crafts a richly detailed mystery surrounding one striking 15th-century portrait—“a piece of junk, a thrift-store picture sold at a rock-bottom price”—bought by two dealers in 2005 for $1,175, sold for $80 million in 2013, and, in 2017, auctioned at Christie’s New York for $450 million, making it the world’s most expensive painting. The work is Salvator Mundi, depicting Christ, his hand raised in blessing, holding a glowing orb: Christ as the Savior of the World. The mystery is its creator. To prove that the artist was Leonardo da Vinci, the dealers spent years investigating the work’s provenance, a record of ownership that shows how it was identified, the esteem in which it was held, and its value through the years. They also consulted with da Vinci experts, art historians, and an esteemed restorer who took on the challenge of painstakingly bringing the relic back to life. The work of restoration proved central to the painting’s fame and value. “The restorer,” Lewis notes, “spends hours at a stretch in a closed-off world, peering through magnifying visors, engrossed in the most minuscule details of a painting.” With the Salvator Mundi, though, the restorer’s work broached a border “between conservation and invention.” Controversy over attribution raged, inflamed by concern over the extent of the restoration, experts’ evaluation of brushwork and style, and, not least, professional rivalries, academic ambitions, and financial interests. Even after London’s National Gallery placed it in a da Vinci exhibition, some believed it at most da Vinci–esque, perhaps emanating from his studio. As Lewis chronicles the quest to attribute the painting to da Vinci, he uncovers an astoundingly dysfunctional world of museums, galleries, auction houses, collectors—a Russian oligarch and a Saudi prince among them—and unscrupulous middlemen, a world plagued by mistrust, suspicion, and the irresistible lure of financial rewards.

Art, greed, and stealth make for a lively tale of intrigue.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984819-25-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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