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I don’t think I have a larcenous bone in my body, but I do enjoy reading about art cons, for some reason. Stealing Mona Lisa: A Mystery is classed as fiction, but the book loosely chronicles the actual disappearance of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece from the Louvre from 1911 to 1913. You may root for the thieves and con men here?
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art is a compelling read. It’s chock-full of details about talented forger John Myatt and smooth John Drewe who was able to scam collectors into buying “Braques,” “Chagalls” and “Giacomettis.” The husband and wife author team prove their mettle as investigative journalists, unraveling an elaborate con game of over 240 works, with stolen labels and certificates “authenticating” provenance.(If you don’t have time to read the book, a New York Times article by Peter Landesman titled “20th-Century Master Scam” covers the same fascinating material.)
Fly Specks and All
From the mouth of one who knows, read the true story of Ken Penrenyi in Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of An American Art Forger. Actually, one might be more inclined to just browse the New York Times article to find out what he’s doing now.
From his roots as an aimless New Jersey teenager thrust into the drugs and good times of the New York art scene, Penrenyi revels in passing off his copies to greedy art houses as paintings found at boot sales. The reader learns how old frames, antique drawer panels and manufacturing fly specks on painting surfaces convinced buyers of authenticity.
Info on eBooks format
Because I didn’t like Penrenyi’s personality and ethics, I just dipped in and out of Caveat Emptor. For a quick skim, I found the electronic format on my iPhone to be ideal. San Mateo County Library has two titles of this book available, one in Kindle format and one in Adobe EPUB for compatible devices. For more information, go to the eBooks/eAudiobooks tab on the www.smcl.org Website or check your local library for a class to help download eBooks to your mobile device. For example, Woodside Library is hosting such a class on Sat., April 6 at 9:30 a.m.
Have to have the book form, to admire the pictures
The Impossible Museum: The Best Art You’ll Never See rounds out this post with incredible pictures and possible plot lines for many more fictional books or screenplays. The art historian who curated this collection has gathered images of missing or stolen or hidden away treasures, as well as ephemeral works and even some art pieces known to have been destroyed.
Karen Y.’s daughter is a curator of contemporary art, so Karen Y. is drawn to these topics. If the book is extra-special, such as The Impossible Museum, a gift copy is often sent to New York City, where her daughter is currently living and working.