Provenance

“On his way home on the train, Myatt reflected on what had been a very good first meeting.  It dawned on him that he had been suffering from an insidious form of low-level isolation and loneliness, and that in some profound sense he’d taken leave of the real world.  The work he was doing for Drewe might be a way back.” (page 14)

We’re moving on from book thefts to art fraud.  I don’t know a lot about the art world and even less about art forgery. But I fell in love with the show White Collar and it motivated me to do a little reading.  One of the books I picked up was Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo.  

provenance

This non-fiction book tells the story of how two men, a down on his luck artist and a highly-skilled con artist, worked together to pull off some major art frauds.  The artist, John Myatt, was a reluctant participant at first but his partner John Drewe was a master manipulator and knew how to string him along.

“It hit Myatt that Drewe had already sold the piece. He could no longer deny what he had suspected, that Drewe was passing off his works as genuine.  He had already painted fifteen or twenty pieces for the good professor, and Drewe wanted more.  

Myatt took the cash and realized that with that one small gesture he had crossed the line.” (page 37)

The lengths that Drewe went to in order to pass off these forgeries as the real deal is incredible.  He began to create fake documentations to establish a provenance for their works and even managed to get them into the Tate Gallery’s archives.  But Drewe wasn’t satisfied with just a few well-crafted forgeries… he was always looking for the next scheme to pull off.

“It occurred to him that Drewe was addicted to the con, that every sale was like a junkie’s rush to him.  The money wasn’t the object, it was the scam itself.  Drewe had begun to believe in his imaginary status as a collector and to speak about the paintings as if they were authentic.  Like every bad drug run, this would all come to a dreadful end. The market simply could not absorb the number of fakes they were producing.  If they continued as usual, they would almost certainly get pinched.” (page 165)

Provenance is a well-researched book and very enjoyable to read.  It didn’t take me long to get through it the first time and I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading it again.

From The Cover: Filled with extraordinary characters and told at a break-neck speed, Provenance is the astonishing true story 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 and vulnerable single dad John Myatt. Together they exploited the archives of the upper echelons of the British art world 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.

Just One More Thing: “For his part, Drewe never let the facts get in the way of a good story, particularly one that could help him sell more fakes.” (page 53)

This Edition: Paperback published by Penguin (2010)

Other Books by Laney Salisbury: The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against and Epidemic (with Gay Salisbury)

You Might Also Like: Priceless: How I Went Undercover To Rescue The World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman

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This Is For You

I have long been fascinated by paper cutting and even tried it out a few times myself.  I think I’ll stick to admiring other people’s work for now.  Like the wonderful creations of Rob Ryan.  I bought his book This Is For You a few weeks ago and absolutely love it!

This Is For You

 

He has another book, A Sky Full of Kindness, and a blog that is definitely worth checking out.

What’s In A Name?

“Come, little leaves” said the wind one day,
“Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold.”
-the first stanza of “Come Little Leaves” by George Cooper

Fall

Time has been on my mind a lot lately.  It seems like just yesterday my family was gathering around the dining room table for Thanksgiving Dinner and shortly afterwards around a brightly decorated tree on Christmas Morning.  Summer has just flown by and will be gone before we know it.

As I was thinking of potential names for this blog a little rhyme popped into my head: “My oh my how time does fly.  It’s been a spell, hope all is well.” At first I couldn’t remember where I heard it, but after a few minutes of Intense Thinking (you really have to work at it some days) it came to me.  Many years ago I was at a Hallmark store looking for the perfect birthday card when one that was Definitely Not What I Needed caught my eye.  It was a little card that pictured a Very Well-Dressed Mouse at her mailbox and a bird mailman standing nearby.  The rhyme is from that card (although I’m not positive that’s exactly how it went) and it was cute enough that I bought it and another one by the same artist.  I can’t remember what scene the other card depicted but I held onto both of them for years.  I eventually sent the mailbox card to a friend but I couldn’t remember what happened to the second card.  That, of course, meant it was time to pull out The Greeting Card Collection.

I’ve kept almost every card I have received since I was a little girl.  Why?  I really don’t know.  I just can’t make myself get rid of any of them.  So I was thinking the other card may have found its way into The Collection.  They are in no particular order (it’s not a very well-organized collection) and it takes awhile to go through them all.  By the time I reached the end I discovered that the other card wasn’t there but the Very Well-Dressed Mouse was!

Vera the Mouse

My parents gave me this card one year for my birthday.  Vera the Mouse is the creation of Marjolein Bastin.  Her website is just as beautiful as her art and displays her work and newsletter.

Having said all that… welcome to my blog.  I hope you enjoy it!