Provenance: How A Con Man And A Forger Rewrote The History Of Modern Art by Laney SalisburyProvenance: How A Con Man And A Forger Rewrote The History Of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury

Provenance: How A Con Man And A Forger Rewrote The History Of Modern Art

byLaney Salisbury, Aly Sujo

Paperback | May 25, 2010

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The true story of one of the twentieth century's most audacious art frauds

Filled with extraordinary characters and told at breakneck speed, Provenance reads like a well-plotted thriller. But this is most certainly not fiction. It is the astonishing narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate cons in the history of art forgery. Stretching from London to Paris to New York, investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo recount the tale of infamous con man and unforgettable villain John Drewe and his accomplice, the affable artist John Myatt. Together they exploited the archives of British art institutions to irrevocably legitimize the hundreds of pieces they forged, many of which are still considered genuine and hang in prominent museums and private collections today.
Laney Salisbury, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported from Africa, the Middle East, and New York. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.Aly Sujo was an investigative reporter, part of a husband-and-wife team with Laney Salisbury. He covered arts and entertainment for Reuters, the Associated Press,...
Title:Provenance: How A Con Man And A Forger Rewrote The History Of Modern ArtFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.4 × 5.5 × 0.8 inPublished:May 25, 2010Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143117408

ISBN - 13:9780143117407

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read! One always expects the cover description to be complimentary to the book. All too often, however, it is similar to a movie trailer that highlights the only the very best part of the whole story. Not the case with Provenance. This book truly does read like a thriller. It is indeed fast paced. The authors certainly did their research and managed to wrangle the very, very convoluted escapades of John Drewe into a readable (and quite exciting) look into the world of art and art forgery. I have been reading a fair bit of non-fiction lately and Provenance is the most “current” of the books I have read. It certainly makes for interesting reading when the authors were able to interview the people involved (because they were still alive) and know that the information was reasonably fresh in their recollections. “Frequently there is a tender complicity between faker and victim: I want you to believe that such and such is the case, says the faker; if you want to believe it, too, and in order to cement that belief, you, for your part, will give me a great deal of money, and I, for my part, will laugh behind your back. The deal is done.” – from a letter by Julian Barnes, June 11, 2990. The above quote pretty much sums up how cons like the one perpetuated by John Drewe can go on as long as it did. Yes, the talent of the “con man” makes it happen but the complicity of the those wanting to believe in his story allow it to go on for such a very long time. While reading this book the “what if” question was constantly in the back of my mind … What if …. John Drewe had turned his considerable talents to a legitimate enterprise? What if … John Myatt used his considerable talents not for forgery but for original art? What if … John Drewe’s marriage had not hit the rocks and his wife not become angry enough to go to the police with her suspicions? Definitely the art world would have been turned inside out even more, but we also would have been left without a wonderful telling of the caper. I enjoyed this book a great deal.
Date published: 2014-06-05

Read from the Book

The grand moment in the reception finally arrived. Two white-gloved Tate conservators entered the room with a pair of paintings, each about five feet tall. There was a moment of respectful silence. Myatt was stunned.“Ahh, the Bissières, how lovely,”someone in the room whispered.Myatt cringed as the group praised the paintings and Drewe’s taste and generosity. The two works were carried around the room, and long before they reached Myatt, he recognized the faint but acrid smell of the varnish he had sprayed on them when he’d finished them a few weeks earlier.Myatt gripped his chair. If they so much as touched the canvas with a fine brush, the paint would give way and the game would be up. A little further investigative work would reveal that the pieces—purportedly painted more than forty years earlier—had been made with modern, ordinary house paint.The reception over, the Tate brass escorted Drewe and Myatt down the winding staircase. Stopping at a landing, one of the officials pointed at a place on the wall and said: “This is where we’ll hang these two wonderful pieces.”Placing a work at the Tate was a remarkable achievement for any artist—forger or not—but Myatt could see only one possible end to what had transpired. He had survived many low points in his past, but none as low as this. Surely he would end up in prison.Once in the taxi, Myatt, usually deferential toward Drewe, exploded. “You have to get them back.”Drewe argued that if they were to ask for the paintings back, it would involve a terrible loss of credibility, putting at risk all the time he had put into cultivating the confidence of the Tate’s archivists. But he also saw that as long as the twoc arelessly done forgeries remained in the hands of museum curators, Myatt would remain paralyzed by the fear that they would be his undoing.The following day Drewe was back at the Tate to withdraw the Bissières. There was a problem with their provenance, questions having to do with the previous owners. In place of the two works, he was prepared to offer a sizable cash donation to the Tate’s archives.Within days the Tate received a check for twenty thousand pounds (forty thousand dollars) to help catalog the archives, along with a promise of half a million more to come. With this donation, Drewe established himself as a respected donor for whom the doors of the heavily guarded archival department would stand open. The historical records of one of the world’s great museums, and its cherished credibility, were about to become irreparably compromised.