Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

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I’m not one for true crime and I’m not that interested in the international art market, but somehow the two came alive to the point that this tale of art forgery on a grand scale became a page-turner. The cast of characters is vast but the two that stand out are the con man fantasist John Drewe and his reluctant painting forger John Myatt.

Told as a caper in reverse, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for our anti-heroes as they take the self-satisfied, over-inflated fine art market of 1980-90s London and New York for a well-deserved ride.

A more detailed review of the book is here. The only downside I’d add was I listened to Provenance as an audio book that featured a surprisingly monotone American actress reading (and mispronouncing English place names and French artistic terms) which seemed a poor choice of narrator since the book had a distinctly tongue-in-cheek British feel to it that would have been so much better read by a more sympathetic narrator.  That it was still thrilling was testament to the quality of the tale.

Read (don’t listen to) it!

No. 29 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2019.

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Patrick Sherriff publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction about Japan and featuring an original painting or sketch. He lives in Abiko, Japan, with his wife and two daughters.