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False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes Hardcover – May 7, 1996
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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.
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.
Top customer reviews
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With that preamble, it was good to find out what tools are there to decipher the forgeries from those that are not, and to my surprise the most important and effective tool is the expert's own vision! His "gut sense" so to speak. Scientific analysis is all good, but never sufficient, the last word is after the actual human.
Furthermore, we get a full history on the forgeries from the ancient times, and a few surprises concerning bogus pieces in the modern times. That's very entertaning indeed.
And of course, what would a good "fakebuster" be without a few good chapters on his own carrier as such? And here we find enormous amount of very interesting information from author's own experiences. To conclude, there is almost no way to tell a good piece from an awesomely concucted forgery, that's bad news. The good news is that to tell a fake one needs actually very little: fakes are often times decrepid and silly, with the features that make them stand out, but which evade the eye for the reason of them being so obvious - one should learn to find those. With that I, converted by the author have become very sceptical of any art, and Im sure for a good reason.
I ve been browsing various antiques mostly on the Web for a while now - a good few years. Using the author's method I started to look at all of it anew, and the result my friends was horryfing. There is a lot of unreal stuff out there, so do not fool yourself by saying to yourself "i got this thing first, and this is the only thing out there, and i am the only one in possesion!!" - this is a sure way to trip. Extreme hunger produces greed and speed, which are the enemies of a good aquisition in the area where the experts who are much much much more knowledgable than you and me make mistakes. So let us be open-eyed and open-minded, and be willing to cut a slack for a slice of reality that tells us, "there s very little known, and you are a guest, so act like one" - something that the chinese call "ke-chi", or "The air of the Guest".
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.