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.
"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)
Terrific story behind a massive series of art swindles in the 1990's by a couple of somewhat talented gentlemen. The authors provide such great detail, you can feel as if you are looking over the shoulder of the swindler. Solid narration makes the audio book even more enjoyable.
I had to give up on the audio book because of the narration. And I almost invariably love the narrator. This time I feel it was not the narrator per se, but the engineer who taped her. ( Although, I must say, she could have done a better job at the pronunciation of names - e.g. Klee does NOT rhyme with key).
Did they really need to save 5 minutes or so to cram this book into a certain length?
The book sounds as if it is 8 hours of a run-on sentence. No natural pauses between words, sentences, paragraphs or chapters. Really annoying. Note that there are many names involved here which makes it even normally hard to follow an audio book, even more so when the narrator drones on interminably.
So I got the real book, and cannot put it down. Absolutely mesmerizing true story, well documented and written. Wish it had had pictures - that would have made it spectacular. Should be made into a movie.
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I LOVED IT! If only more non-fiction books were written in this style; it reads like a story. Brilliant. It’s not dry and textbooky like most non-fiction books I have read (and that’s a lot, just check my library).
Most of the time non-fiction tends to be pretty dull, emotionless and little more than a long boring litany of: Fact. Fact. Date. Date. Fact. Date. Fact. You read it because you are interested in the information, but the presentation dulls your curiosity.
That’s not the case for this book, thanks to the story-style-set-up, it held my attention the entire way though... I never once got bored, or felt lost, or was mired down in a well of names and dates. I was captivated from the beginning to the end.
This is the story of one of the major acts of art fraud in the modern world. The facts themselves are probably worth the price of admission, but the rather epic mystery is well-explained and developed throughout the book. The only major downside is that the narration is a bit grating.
What's I find especially interesting is the arrangement of the book itself. The author didn't really tell one story, but frames the whole event in a series of interlocking narratives, which is confusing at times but really helpful at others: the story is just that big that it justifies it. The book is equally interesting in terms of who (and how) it crafts its heroes and villains.
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.
I really like John Myatt's work, and I have always been fascinated by his story, which brought me to this book. I really liked the way the story of Drewe and Myatt was told, and the narrator I think did a good job.
A fascinating story of real-life adventure and detective work. It included information about the reality of forensic evidence with art works. The characters are unbelievable -- but true.
Reader made this terrible. Could have been a very good audio book, it had a very interesting story. But it was painful to listen to.
Yes. With a more exciting reader
Long commute = Lots of time for audiobooks
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.
The story itself was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. The only thing that spoiled it for me were the narrator's persistent mispronunciations. Southwark to rhyme with South Fork for instance and really, clique rhymes with week not wick. A British narrator would have made much better sense for a story based in the UK.
An interesting and absorbing story but spoilt by the awful robotic, American accent and pronunciations
"Fascinating story of a conman and how provenance works"
Both exciting and factual, with a good amount of information and detail – something hard to pull off.
If you have any interest in confidence artists, how provenance works and how art is judged to be real, the history of modern art, what lengths one has to go to as a forger and what one can get away with, or just want to hear a jolly bizarre true story and gripping read, check out this book.
I've heard this story before from documentaries and articles, but nothing quite so in-depth as this book. New bits of info I found interesting included:
- Details about Myatt's life and history as an artist. (I personally would have liked even more information on how he thinks about art, but it was an appropriate amount for his role in the story.)
- Drewe's fascination with Nazis/WW2 and the Mossad.
- The mind-boggingly complicated lengths Drewe would go to, living his whole life as a con.
- Exactly how the provenances were forged.
- How much he got away with simply based on people not checking references.
- How gullible and trusting people are when you tell a story confidently.
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