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

Front Cover
Penguin, Jul 9, 2009 - History - 352 pages
3 Reviews
A tautly paced investigation of one the 20th century's most audacious art frauds, which generated hundreds of forgeries-many of them still hanging in prominent museums and private collections today

Provenance is the extraordinary narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate deceptions in art history. Investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo brilliantly recount the tale of a great con man and unforgettable villain, John Drewe, and his sometimes unwitting accomplices.

Chief among those was the struggling artist John Myatt, a vulnerable single father who was manipulated by Drewe into becoming a prolific art forger. Once Myatt had painted the pieces, the real fraud began. Drewe managed to infiltrate the archives of the upper echelons of the British art world in order to fake the provenance of Myatt's forged pieces, hoping to irrevocably legitimize the fakes while effectively rewriting art history.

The story stretches from London to Paris to New York, from tony Manhattan art galleries to the esteemed Giacometti and Dubuffet associations, to the archives at the Tate Gallery. This enormous swindle resulted in the introduction of at least two hundred forged paintings, some of them breathtakingly good and most of them selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many of these fakes are still out in the world, considered genuine and hung prominently in private houses, large galleries, and prestigious museums. And the sacred archives, undermined by John Drewe, remain tainted to this day.

Provenance reads like a well-plotted thriller, filled with unforgettable characters and told at a breakneck pace. But this is most certainly not fiction; Provenance is the meticulously researched and captivating account of one of the greatest cons in the history of art forgery.

What people are saying - Write a review

Brilliant. Reads like a fictional thriller but...

User Review  - nyccitymom -

This is a great read and you will never look at art the same way again. Laney Salisbury tracks the charming and genius John Drewe if that really is his name through his remarkable plot at conning the ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Could have been great, but the authors erred in not clearly picking a style. If it is fiction, it should read like a thriller and it does not, there is no suspense and it reads like a chronological research report.
So if it is written in an accurate, sometimes quite winded fashion, then it should be non-fiction, and we should know all the facts and the sources.
With this book, the reader has to put up with the length of an academic work, but misses the fun of reading a good thriller, without getting true information.
Still gave it three stars because there are lots of flavorful vignettes about the "art world" and its corruption. The lesson is "trust no-one"! especially not art benefactors, nor distracted artists.

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information