Here is a troubling story. According to Martin Bailey’s article in The Art Newspaper: A leading Leonardo da Vinci scholar, Martin Kemp, has stated that London’s National Gallery altered the attribution of a “Leonardo” it was borrowing, in order to obtain the loan for its 2011-12 blockbuster exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. He goes on to say that Martin Kemp claims that the Gallery exhibited the Madonna Litta, on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as an autograph work, even though the National Gallery’s own curators believed it to be by a pupil. In order to be sure the work would be cataloged as a Leonardo, the Hermitage insisted that their curator write the painting’s entry for the accompanying exhibition catalog. Someone should have told the Hermitage that … once a Leonardo does not mean it will always be a Leonardo!
This is just as bad as a museum displaying a work from their own collection that they know is a fake, as an authentic work by an artist … or when auction rooms offer, and then sell, fakes. These stories make you wonder what goes on in people’s minds. We expect museums to be careful and properly curate their exhibits … especially those at the level of London’s National Gallery. This type of behavior can hurt an artist’s reputation and their market.