Customer Reviews for

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

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    Fascinating story of a master con artist!

    Provenance seems like a straightforward art forgery story until you get into the convoluted mind of John Drewe. A man so warped he would deep-six the only friends he had, including his common law wife, Drewe takes the art world unawares, breaches the sanctity of the proof of authenticity, provenance, and nearly gets away with it.

    Salisbury and Sujo create a very readable narrative of this true crime story, the victims (the forger, friends, museums, etc.), the villain, and the heroes of the Art and Antiques squad at New Scotland Yard. I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2014

    This is a winner!!

    This book was suggested for my book club. I haven't finished it yet - I'm about 1/2 way through but I can't put it down. I keep telling myself this is a true story but I keep thinking it's a nove. You don't have to be a big art fan to appreciate the scam and all the details that go into it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book is an amazing tale that I still tell people about, eve

    This book is an amazing tale that I still tell people about, even though I read it a few years ago.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read!

    I had a hard time putting this book down. I know nothing whatsoever about the art world, but am starting to get interested in antique paintings, so I picked this book up, not having any expectations. It was a fascinating read about the way the art world works, how paintings are authenticated, etc. It was clearly meticulously researched and the efforts show. It was a great intro to the world of paintings and has prompted me to read more widely on this subject.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Provenance is the story of a very long con: John Drewe (only one

    Provenance is the story of a very long con: John Drewe (only one of his names), a pathological liar with a phenomenal memory for trivia, gleefully trashed the modern history of European art through the 1990s while moving hundreds – perhaps thousands – of forged paintings through major galleries and auction houses, all the while being feted by the art establishment. And it’s all true.

    Drewe didn’t forge the paintings himself. He outsourced that job to John Myatt, an amateur painter and general sad sack who whipped up new works by Modernist artists using house paint and scrap lumber. Drewe wasn’t even the first to devise fake provenances (collection histories) for fake paintings. His innovation was to hack the archives of major museums (such as London’s Tate Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum) to insert the fakes into the very fabric of art history. The lengths he went to in order to pass off the phonies as realies are almost as amazing as the fact that so many reputed art experts and galley owners swallowed the scam whole. This will not be comfortable reading for art insiders.

    Authors Salisbury and Sujo tell the tale in almost novelistic form. The players aren’t just names but full-fledged characters, with their thoughts and dialog recreated convincingly. The authors dole out background information as needed, avoiding the lengthy infodumps that often plague even popular histories. The outline of the story itself is almost cinematic; you can find all the major beats of a crime film in the plot, and the same momentum. The only things missing are the car chases and the climactic shootout.

    There are a few stumbles along the way. There’s a certain amount of repetition, especially in the final quarter of the book when the police are on the case and are discovering the same facts from different sources. The close focus on the major players loosens during the trial scenes, which become reportage rather than storytelling. A glossary would be helpful for non-specialist readers. And if there was ever a true-crime book that screamed out for pictures, this is it: unless you’re familiar with the works of Giacometti, Nicholson or Dubuffet, you won’t have any idea what the real (or fake) paintings look like.

    If con artists are your cuppa, Provenance is for you. The same goes if you enjoy seeing privilege with egg on its face. Even if you know nothing about Modern art, you’ll be able to connect with the characters and go along on their long, strange ride. You can’t hope to find a fictional character as outlandish as the real-life John Drewe. And at the end, you’ll never look at a painting in a museum the same way again.

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  • Posted June 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Completely absorbing...the audiobook is brilliant, too

    This is a mind-bending walk through The Art of the Con as practiced by con-master John Drewe, simultaneously and serially known as John Cockett, a different Mr. Cockett, Mr. Sussman, Mr. Green, Mr. Atwood, Mr. Martin, Mr. Bayard, and Mr. Coverdale. John Drewe and the skilled painter John Myatt together perpetrated one of the longest-running and most extensive art frauds of the late 20th century, extending from London to America and the continent, and from there around the world. Breathtaking high-wire stunts of impersonation and art forgery, archive-diving and modification, provenance creation and solicitation all came to a halt nearly a decade after it had begun when a few of the more than two hundred paintings Myatt had forged and sold came to the attention of New Scotland Yard's chief of The Art and Antiques Squad, Dick Ellis. The discussion of the fraud holds one kind of fascination; the gathering of evidence and the actual trial holds different thrills. John Drewe was undoubtedly one of the finest liar-performers ever uncovered, and in fact, the con has become known as John Drewe's "performance piece" by insiders and investigators. Drewe kept such an enormous cache of personae in the air at the same time and convinced so many of his rectitude that one would simply love to see him act, as long as his mental acuity was not aimed at one's life savings, nor one's unprotected heart. While all of this completely absorbing story holds interest for the reader, I especially loved the graceful way it ended. We learn of the take-down, the trial, the sentencing, and the after-trial outcomes. This is a marvelously-told story with lessons for us all. I can heartily recommend the audiobook narrated by Marty Peterson, though I did listen to it on slow speed. At normal speed I was getting so much info I couldn't keep track of names and places.

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    Posted January 10, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
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