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on January 13, 2015
A large number of books have been published in recent years on the subject of fraudulent art. A few are autobiographical accounts, some are biographies, and many are academic studies on what motivates fakers, their techniques, and how they inject their phony works into the market.

John Drewe, the central figure around whom the story of this book is built, is a uniquely clever and industrious con-man. As the title suggests, his complex swindle involved creating a bogus provenance for the fraudulent works he had commissioned. He insinuated himself into museum archives where he secretly inserted the forged documentation. It was a scheme that fooled much of the art establishment for years. Worse, he so debased the archives that they could never be entirely relied upon again.

Provenance is a real life thriller and detective yarn, a factual account of a singular and elaborate scam. It provides a knowledgeable glimpse into the shady machinations, the greed and dangers of a secretive art world in which huge amounts of money change hands daily. It also delves into the strange world of John Drewe, a highly intelligent, inventive, but totally corrupt figure, a sociopath and pathological liar whose life is driven by falsehoods and fantasy.

Provenance is a smoothly written and well researched book, a true account of remarkable events, one that is both instructive and pleasurable to read.
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on November 6, 2016
Provenance is an unusual book that plainly makes the case that love of history is often heavily clouded by the status of association with greatness, casting doubt and concern about the legitimacy of our "artifacts." Can we trust what we see? Can we trust the experts? Does it matter? And if so, why? Recognizing the ease with which some have created substitute "artifacts," how much of our "history" can be relied upon, and how much may be a popular forgery? Indirectly, Provenance questions everything we think we've ever seen "proven" by "evidence." A fascinating read.
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on September 12, 2012
Published in 2009 after the death of one of the couple of authors this in depth presentation of an extraordinary series of art and documentation forgeries ever.

Years of research were required to effectively present the deeds or misdeeds of John Drewe who seem to become the characters he pretended to be - a physicist, an heir to a remarkable art collection, a Mossad agent, a consultant to the British Atomic Energy Commission and the list goes on. All the while cleverly documenting and selling "modern masterpieces" to the leading dealers in London and elsewhere.

John Myatt - failed painter is swept into this whirlwind of activity and doing a reasonably good job of creating masterpieces by Ben Nicholson, Roger Bissiere, Braques and Giacometti, Graham Sutherland et al.

Drewe prepared an "authentic" provenance for each work and then used "runners" to present and sell them to the likes of Leslie Waddington, Daniel Stern, Peter Nahum among many others. Upwards of 200 works were made and sold.

Drewe parlayed each meeting and relationship into a probable sale.

Eventually he was caught and convicted but it took hard work, chance and luck to bring him down. He was never repentant and was also not out to embarrass the art world. Rather his success was aided by the lax standards where greed is involved.

Although it is a tale related to the modern art world it seems more a story of the disintegration of moral and ethical standards in our world. The authors simply and clearly describe the facts and the events but the take away for me seems much more tragic and universal.
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on May 26, 2017
Wow! This is as good as any Tom Clancey or Grisham novel I have read!

Although I had heard this was non-fiction, I was compelled in the middle of reading this book, to go online to see if Drewe and Myatt were, indeed, real people! And--they are real people!

A fun and thought-provoking book!

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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VINE VOICEon March 9, 2010
I very much enjoyed this book. I learned quite a lot about how the "art world" works. The story is a compelling one, the research seems solid, the writing is fluent and engaging, and the book is a remarkably easy read when you consider how much technical material is covered in it. The authors have a real knack for descriptive writing, making things that the reader cannot see real and solid in the mind's eye.

However, there were three things that I found frustrating about the book. First, the lack of illustrations -- it seems as if the book would have been stronger if there had been images to help the non-expert understand the ways in which the forged pieces were good and the ways in which they fell short. Second, I was left with real curiosity about what Drewe had been doing prior to this scheme. I wish that the authors had managed to uncover this information. it seems odd to me that where they are willing to make educated guesses (always identified as such!) about other things, they had no theories to advance about this particular point. And finally, I find myself wondering where the painting Myatt says he did not do came from.

These are minor quibbles, and should in no way stop anyone with an interest in art, in confidence games, or in interesting well-told stories from picking this book up and getting a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2010
I quickly found myself drawn into this fast-paced story of intrique in the art world. It reads like a novel...except it's all true! Art forgers, scammers, gun runners, museum curators, archivists, Scotland Yard detectives, international intrique. This book has it all.

I believe what alarmed me the most was how easily people were duped by the scheming John Drewe and his art forger, John Myatt. Drewe was the real villain in this tale. Myatt was really the starving artist who was just trying to make a few extra pounds to support his kids. He did not start out as a forger but crossed the line into the deceit through the machinations of Drewe.

I've read Eric Hebborn's Drawn to Trouble where he took great pains to "age" his forgeries, particularly to techniques, papers, oils, and other materials. John Myatt used cheap canvases and cheaper wall paint! Drewe attached fake labels and planted documents in the archives of some of the best museums in the world. Why didn't he get caught sooner? He lied and fabricated stories about himself, his wife, family connections, and just about anything else that would be convenient to his purposes. There is even strong evidence that his actions resulted in the death of a young woman as he tried to cover his trail.

How he managed to fool so many people for so long is at the crux of this story. If you are at all interested in the subject of forgeries and spoofing the hoity-toity of the art world, you will enjoy this book.
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on December 23, 2010
"Provenance, How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art" is the beautifully written, impeccably researched story of a master pathological liar-manipulator. John Drewe duped his way from humble beginnings in southeast England up the social ladder straight into the rarified world of 20th Century fine art.

Drewe's alteration of British gallery and museum artwork ownership archives, known as "provenance," compromised the authenticity of some 200 modern art pieces sold to collectors and museums world-wide. The scope of his spectacularly conceived scheme exploited the vulnerable and ensnared the naïve as co-perpetrators of his fraudulent enterprise.

Salisbury's and Sujo's book provides a fascinating education in the nuances of art forgery, along with the telling of an intriguing true crime story. Their flawless prose is a pleasure to read. But, for anyone who loves fine art, this is a sad and frightening tale indeed--for it is a study of a real life sociopath whose machinations denigrated the integrity of works produced by some of modern art's masters--irrevocably.
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VINE VOICEon September 22, 2009
"Provenance" is a reconstruction of how a con man and a forger infiltrated the art world in London and Manhattan during the 1980s and 1990s to facilitate the sale of fake paintings. While the con man wined and dined executives in order to build his reputation and exaggerate his expertise he was also stealing from their libraries and catalogs so he could create a false provenance for each of his fakes.

Even though the forger himself knew most of the paintings were terribly flawed they were sold for thousands of dollars because the provenances showed the paintings to be works of popular artists. It makes a person wonder what really makes a painting valuable.

This is an interesting book that delves into the mind of what makes a con work and what makes a con man tick. Readers who enjoyed "Catch Me if You Can" or "The Gardner Heist" will probably enjoy "Provenance."
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on September 13, 2013
Provenance combines true crime brilliance with astute human interest in a way that I have never before come across.

This book will make you laugh, shake your head in awe, and even feel compassion for the criminals at some points. This book will make you route for the art world and museums on one page, and then feel connected and supportive of the con men on the next page. From one page to another you will find yourself sickened at the con man, and then mesmerized by his "sociopathic brilliance".

If you have any love of art, any interest in true crime, or are at all intrigued by the mind of con men, then this book will be one that will leave you anxious to read it a second time as soon as you finish it the first time.

A brilliant read.
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on July 6, 2014
I found this book to start a little slow, prodding, but I couldn't put the book down after the halfway point. I kept finding myself thinking, "this can't possibly be true," but you are assured by the extensive endnotes that indeed, it is. Once I finished the book, I appreciated the time the author took to setup the psychology and industry standards, which helps makes sense of the way things wrapped up. I recently read The Art Forger: A Novel by B. A. Shapiro, and it was interesting to see the intersection of truth and fiction (The Art Forger used many technical details actually practiced by the team explored in Provenance). I recommend this book, though it takes some time to become absorbed; it is well-written and carefully researched, and what a tale!
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