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Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art | [Laney Salisbury, Aly Sujo]

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art

Here is a tautly paced investigation of one the 20th century's most audacious art frauds, which generated hundreds of forgeries - many of them still hanging in prominent museums and private collections today. Provenance is the extraordinary narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate deceptions in art history.
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Publisher's Summary

Here is a tautly paced investigation of one the 20th century's most audacious art frauds, which generated hundreds of forgeries - many of them still hanging in prominent museums and private collections today. Provenance is the extraordinary narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate deceptions in art history. Investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo brilliantly recount the tale of a great con man and unforgettable villain, John Drewe, and his sometimes unwitting accomplices. Chief among those was the struggling artist John Myatt, a vulnerable single father who was manipulated by Drewe into becoming a prolific art forger. Once Myatt had painted the pieces, the real fraud began. Drewe managed to infiltrate the archives of the upper echelons of the British art world in order to fake the provenance of Myatt's forged pieces, hoping to irrevocably legitimize the fakes while effectively rewriting art history.

The story stretches from London to Paris to New York, from tony Manhattan art galleries to the esteemed Giacometti and Dubuffet associations, to the archives at the Tate Gallery. This enormous swindle resulted in the introduction of at least 200 forged paintings, some of them breathtakingly good and most of them selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many of these fakes are still out in the world, considered genuine and hung prominently in private houses, large galleries, and prestigious museums. And the sacred archives, undermined by John Drewe, remain tainted to this day.

Provenance reads like a well-plotted thriller, filled with unforgettable characters and told at a breakneck pace. But this is most certainly not fiction; Provenance is the meticulously researched and captivating account of one of the greatest cons in the history of art forgery.

©2009 Laney Salisbury; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Salisbury and Sujo (who died in 2008) evoke with flair the plush art world and its penetration by the seductive Drewe as well as the other players in this fascinating art drama." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (303 )
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3.8 (203 )
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  •  
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 05-27-12
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 05-27-12 Member Since 2014

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
    610
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    150
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    Story
    "Unbelievable, But Somehow Believable"

    This story is an entertaining narrative of the unbelievable exploits of a consummate con artist. It is a fascinating look at how a rather ordinary man was able to pull one over on some of the most reputable museums and collectors in the art world. He did this on a shoestring budget, with little training, and while pulling in an unimpressive accomplice. You will be left shaking your head in wonder at how he was able to do it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 07-13-10
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 07-13-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A winner"

    Very interesting book with good narration

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jack Connecticut 03-24-15
    jack Connecticut 03-24-15 Listener Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    23
    4
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    Story
    "Like listening to an On-Hold message at Verizon"

    While the story might have legs; they're quite cut off by the almost-cheery, almost-breathless narration. Quite like the message: "We're sorry to keep you waiting, your call is very important to us, we'll be with you in a moment."
    Couldn't listen after a half-hour and had to return the book. Will try the Kindle edition.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew R. Church Oakland, California 09-22-14
    Andrew R. Church Oakland, California 09-22-14 Member Since 2014

    Andyboy

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    "Read way way way too fast"

    Were they in a hurry or something? This is a great story read way, way to fast. Slow down girl. I need a chance to savor the story. I felt like I was listening to the legal info at the end of an erectile dysfunction commercial.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Die Falknerin 09-05-14 Member Since 2008

    Painter, musician, bibliophile...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great narrative, poor narration"

    This is a great story and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in art or true crime. There are so many characters, lines of inquiry, and bits of history woven through the story, and a feeling of "being there" in real time. The authors' style and organization in handling such a complex story are admirable. Writing about art in an engaging way is tough, but these two keep the story moving all the way to the end.

    The authors portray Myatt with great sympathy. Most of the time, his part in the crimes is downplayed, as if being a good father and going to church were enough to offset the rest. In fact, he willingly participated in the scheme for 8 years before Drewe began acting ever more erratic and Myatt feared he'd end up in jail with him.

    Maybe Myatt is just the sort of criminal people love, one who got one over on the establishment. He fell into Dulux emulsion and came up with gold!

    Unfortunately, the narrator sounds like a computer speaking the words, with no pacing or character to her voice, and mispronunciations abound. Plus, as this is a story about a couple of British cons and much of the action has to do with London, why not get an English narrator?

    A quick check to update the afterword was revealing. In a nutshell, Drewe was sentenced to prison again in 2012 for defrauding an elderly woman of her fortune; Mary Lisa Palmer was thrown under the bus by the Giacometti Foundation; John Myatt continues to sell "real fakes" and make appearances on telly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Salley, SC, United States 03-20-14
    Charles Salley, SC, United States 03-20-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Very well researched! Extremely interesting!"
    Would you listen to Provenance again? Why?

    Possibly. I usually only listen to each book once.


    What other book might you compare Provenance to and why?

    No comparison.


    What does Marty Peterson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great narration. Brings the book to life.


    If you could give Provenance a new subtitle, what would it be?

    The World's Greatest Confidence Man


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna 10-12-13
    Donna 10-12-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Real life art forgery better than fiction"

    Reading about art is almost as enjoyable for me as looking at art. The word "provenance" means a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique. This paperwork is used as a guide to authenticity. This book is a meticulously researched and fascinating recording of one of the greatest cons in the history of art forgery. It took place in the 1980&90's. A huge number of paintings were forged, purchased, auctioned and circulated throughout the world. It is a mystery of sorts, but more of a documentary of events and evidence.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Washington, DC, United States 05-28-13
    Laura Washington, DC, United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2012

    Long commute = Lots of time for audiobooks

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating story; dreadful narration"

    There's so much potential in this story and this book comes close - but doesn't quite - realize all it could be.

    First of all, I have to say that this story - of one of the largest (or the largest? I'm not sure) cons in the history of modern art - is so full of interesting characters and truth-is-stranger-than-fiction scenarios that I guess I'm a little disappointed that Salisbury and Sujo too often didn't let the story speak for itself. There's a lot of telling, not showing, and that style of writing always makes me mistrust the author. Telling me that Drewe is a sociopath is fine I guess, as far as it goes, but I'd much rather know why you think that, through your first-hand impressions of the man and the many other characters in the story whom the authors surely met in person at some point in order to write the book.

    What's missing is anything about why this book's telling of Drewe's story is particularly special. How did the authors come to learn about Drewe's story? Are the direct quotations from Drewe, Myatt, and others from the authors' interviews with the subjects? Did they speak to Drewe himself in prison? They don't say.

    On an equally important note, I hated the narration. You know when you go to check your voicemail and the robot woman voice tells you, "You have 2 new voice messages"? I swear, I think the same voice is narrating this book. I gave up on the book after 2 minutes the first time I tried to listen to it, but eventually gave it another go because I was so interested in the story. The narrator's voice never grew on me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alissa R. Wright Los Angeles, CA, USA 05-03-13
    Alissa R. Wright Los Angeles, CA, USA 05-03-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Ruined by a horrible reader"
    What disappointed you about Provenance?

    The tone and cadence and everything about this reader is terrible. It was like listening to a dull NPR story.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Marty Peterson?

    Maybe someone English? This book takes place in England and the reader butchers all the place names. Maybe an actor? This reader is terrible.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a very interesting story, but the bad reading of it makes it unlistenable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janelle moree, Australia 05-24-13
    Janelle moree, Australia 05-24-13 Member Since 2014

    Book junkie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic Forgers and an Evil Sociopath"

    What a story.I knew about the events described in the book but truly didn't understand what the motivation for the forger was before. I found the forger a very sympathetic character.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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