False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakesby Thomas Hoving
Delving into one of the most sacrosanct areas of culture--fine art collecting--Thomas Hoving presents a gallery of art fakes, fakers, and the suckers who fell for the scams. From the shroud of Turin to pre-Colombian pottery, Hoving reveals the biggest, the best, the most embarrassing, and the most costly forgeries in history--many of them unknown until now. photos.
Hoving, the notorious former director of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of Making the Mummies Dance (1993), etc., has found his calling in exposing art forgeries. As a roving fakebuster (the term is the author's) Hoving draws on his connoisseurship and position as an art world insider to investigate and pursue his hunches about inauthentic works of art. He provides us first with a history of the practice of art forgeries from the Phoenicians to the present. Hoving then offers case histories, including some he investigated. It's startling to learn how many preeminent art professionals (including the author himself) have been duped by forgers. Motivated by "need, speed and greed," art scholars, collectors, and curators alike have been seduced by the most obvious of fakes. Among the most startling cases Hoving cites are the three statues of Etruscan Warriors at the Metropolitan Museum (actually created in Italy some 70 years ago) and the "Curious Spurious Kouros" at the Getty, as well as the dubious model for Michelangelo's David. Hoving also discusses the confusion caused by the "Grand Master" of forged Renaissance drawings, Eric Hebborn, and the remarkable forgeries of Han van Meegeren, the "Vermeer Man." So what does it take to be a fakebuster? "The mental makeup of a detective; the sensitivity of a seasoned connoisseur; the determination of a fierce, often acidulously antiestablishment independent; a scholar with years of saturation in every field of art; plus some experience as a successful forger."
False Impressions, needless to say, is filled with a certain amount of self-praise and one-upmanship, as well as a zestful airing of the art world's dirty laundry. And though Hoving is certainly is no prose stylist, all the same he produces a most absorbing book.
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