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False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes Paperback – May 8, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Take care if you're planning to buy a Renoir landscape or a Manet?there are art fakers who can convincingly simulate the former in two hours, the latter in three, according to Hoving in this wry guide to the world of art forgeries. Hoving (Making the Mummies Dance), former director of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, devotes the first several chapters to a chronological history of art faking; some readers may find this section too detailed and anecdotal. The livelier part of the book involves Hoving's reminiscences about his experiences as a student at Princeton, his apprenticeship at the Met and his sleuthing to detect art fakes. He covers such intriguing topics here as forgers who have "tricked them all," what makes an ideal fake-buster and the "sin" of labeling genuine artifacts as fakes. Noting that art forgery is as old as art, the author warns that "the art world we are living in today is a new, highly active, unprincipled one of art fakery," which he attributes to "raw commercialism" and the "get-rich quick attitude of the times." But Hoving, who enjoys showing off, leads us to believe that with him on the case, no fraud is safe.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here discloses shocking details of major art forgeries and the intricate chicanery of con artists who have duped the world's most prestigious art institutions, art experts, and collectors. Hoving (Making the Mummies Dance, LJ 11/1/92) traces the earliest art deceptions from the time of the Phoenicians, through ancient Roman forgeries of Greek artifacts and the innumerable crucifixion relics of the Middle Ages, to the phony sculpture, paintings, documents, coins, ivories, and gems created now largely for profit. Besides greed as the prime motivation, Hoving also tells wonderful tales of revenge by disgruntled employees aimed at the elitist, arrogant personalities that pervade the art world. As a "fakebuster," Hoving uses his sense of connoisseurship and gut reaction to distinguish originals, which he believes convey a lofty humanity that fakes lack. Museum lovers will find it disconcerting to learn that still undetected frauds are prominently on view. Recommended for general and museum collections.?Joan Levin, MLS, Chicago, Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (May 8, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684831481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on October 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book could have been one of the best books I read this year. The topic is very interesting, and I learned a huge amount from reading it. In fact, when I first read it, I thought it was a 4 1/2 start book. But later I changed my mind.
In looking back at the book, what I most imeediately recall about it are two things:
1. The writing is stodgy and detracts from the tale.
2. The author can't make up his mind who his audience is or what kind of book he is writing.
Sometimes, the book seems to be written for someone like me who doesn't know a whole lot about art and the business of art. In some parts of the book, there are lots aof background details to help a reader make sense of what is going on. However, in other parts of the book, he just writes like he assumes you share his common vocabulary. This makes it difficult for me to follow those parts of the book. By the same token, I expect that a person who found these parts of the book interesting and useful would find the explanations in the other parts tedious and useless. This book can't decide if it is a memoir of the author's life, a history of his career, or a book about art forgery. It would have worked better had it been more focused.
Having made these complaints, I must say that the book was interesting and packed with useful photos to help me make sense of some of the content. In addition, the topic of the book is interesting, and I am glad I read it. I'm just sorry, because I think it is a book on the verge of being a better book than it is, and I hate to see potential come up short.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chris Frost on January 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Hoving seems to know his art, and doesn't have any qualms about sharing his knowledge. He may be a premier fakebuster, but as a writer, he could use a little more practice. While the subject matter was interesting, Hoving had a slightly difficult time keeping my attention. He seemed to jump around alot, and made a lot of assumptions regarding my knowledge of the art world. False Impressions is filled with all kinds of interesting tidbits about the world of art forgery and fakebusting. Unfortunately, it can be somewhat difficult to separate fact from opinion. As a novice to art appreciation, I found much of the material to be "above my head". Perhaps after a few years of study, I will be in a better position to fully benefit from all Hoving offers. Probably the simplest and most effective thing he could have done to improve the book would be to include more pictures, perhaps even some color photos, and have them more logically located in the chapters in which the pieces are discussed, as opposed to having a group of plates three-quarters of the way through the book. At the very least, the text could have referenced the plate section. Unfortunately, every time a new piece is mentioned, the curious reader has to flip to the plate section and hope that the piece is represented there. Overall, I would say that if you are really interested in fine art, you will find this book enlightening. But it's not something one would read just for fun.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Bowman on May 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This could have been a more interesting book, but often as not I found it a chore to read. The subject matter -- art fakery, the criminals who perpetrate it, and the curators and journalists who fall for it -- made for a fascinating glimpse into this other world. Hoving just can't write well, consistently.
Sometimes he gets into a mode, like when going over the medieval and renaissance works, where he would cover so many so quickly that it felt as if he were simply reciting names and dates, losing all the human charm it needs to keep your interest. Some of the text made no sense without the plates, and for some parts there were no plates to, I was never sure just what he was talking about. Other times he exhaustively goes over what everything means, sometimes well, but sometimes to the point of irritation. The biggest mistake I saw was that the ending was very rushed; one of the most interesting stories, about a prolific Mexican sculptor, was cut short and glossed over.
Hoving also has a reputation for... embellishing on his own accomplishments or criminals' cleverness. Some of the areas seem a little hazy and farfetched, so I don't know. He always claims his own explanation to be correct anytime there's room for many possible theories, rather than explaining each and giving the highs and lows of them. In tone he is quite full of himself and his accomplishments, always boasting of being a great fakebuster, often sneering at fellow curators and making snide remarks about journalists (who are really only expected to report whatever the curator says, after all, since most aren't trained in art). It washed off me but might irritate others.
Overall, the book does concentrate on the art and the people duped, and it will expand your fine art knowledge in many ways, covering many varied subjects. I'd still recommend it to art students or fanciers, but to most it would simply be too dense and uneven.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Stefani Koorey on March 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, knows of which he speaks. He takes you on a fascinating journey as he relates his experiences with fakes and frauds in the art world---not just paintings, but great Medieval reliquaries, ancient Greek kouros statuary, Roman antiquities, and pre-Columbian art. He leaves nothing back in his narrative-----which is really refreshing. He details "standard" museum practices of smuggling objects and even names names! And if he doesn't like someone, he doesn't hold that back either.
I found the book informative, lively, and mostly fascinating. I wanted more pictures (there are only a few and none are in color)!! It was a farily easy read too---I read it in a day.
If you enjoy art, art history, or even detective stories, you will enjoy this one!
Stefani Koorey, Ph.D. professor of humanites, theatre, and film
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