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Showing 1-10 of 207 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 248 reviews
on November 26, 2012
Caveat Emptor (or "Buyer Beware") is an amazing story I can only hope someone turns into a movie. Years ago I had come across art forger Ken Perenyi's name and the magazine article intrigued me. It wasn't until this past summer that I saw him interviewed on the Today Show and I realized had "come out of hiding" and penned his incredible story. I was slightly apprehensive about buying the book only because I was afraid that a story based in and around classical artwork might fall a little flat (I love art, but I draw the line at art history as I find it can be a tad tedious for my taste).
Caveat Emptor was a page turner from beginning to end. Perenyi is far from the pretentious art aficionado I had originally pegged him for, in fact his wit, sometimes faltering self esteem (especially growing of age in the 60's and trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life) and at times self-deprecating personality gives Perenyi a very human side. The goings on in Perenyi's apartment building in NYC, then called the "The Ferguson Club", was not only hilarious, some of the characters could have all been straight out of the classic Pulitzer awarded "Confederacy of Dunces". I was so taken by the building and it's tenants I had to go and stand in front of the actual building the last time I found myself in Manhattan!
There's a part of the story when one of the forgeries is going to be cleaned by Sotheby's auction house--which puts you in the room with Perenyi and leaves you with sweaty, clammy palms. Although I didn't want the story to end, I was glad that moved so beautifully and so quickly. I would much rather be left wanting more, than to have to read too much. Well done!!!
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on November 6, 2016
Assuming no hyperbole on the part of the author, this tale is nothing short of amazing. It's hard to imagine that the art world is as subjective as it is portrayed here, but it's even harder to imagine that art that is beautiful and loved and valued by some can be deemed worthless strictly based on who painted it. This is an inside look at how a talented artist is more seduced by money than by creativity. But it's also an examination of how art has no intrinsically defined value beyond the pleasure of the viewer. Is art worth what someone will pay for it? Or is art worth a predictable amount based on the artist and the palette and the innovation of the style? In some ways the best forgers of original work are geniuses. They create works "in the style of" with technical expertise that can fool the experts into believing a "master" created each original piece. Could this particular genius be put to successful, lawful, professional use? It's a fun read which ultimately begs everyone, and certainly every art lover, to consider what they love about art - is it the signature? Or the transcendence?
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on January 22, 2015
I read this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR and I have to agree with some of the other skeptical reviewers. I was disappointed in the glib almost gonzo writing style where everything seems exaggerated, over simplified, compressed, accelerated, in short just not believable. Are we really to understand that the author just stumbled by accident upon "The Castle" and within weeks was swept up in the late 60s art scene, dealing in antiques and fobbing off forgeries right and left? It reminds me (in style not quality!) of Paul Bowles' autobiography "Without Stopping" which some critics referred to as "Without Telling". Nothing you really want to know is revealed! I don't question Perenyi's artistic abilities - there is plenty of external evidence that he is skilled forger. By the end I came to believe that "Caveat Emptor" is just as much a con as the author's artistic life was, and that none of this really happened exactly as describes. It is a form of myth making.
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on April 2, 2013
Ken Perenyi reminisces about his early days starting out as an art forger, until recent years when the FBI investigated him. His escapades are thrilling and give an insider's view of the art industry. Not knowing much about the art world, I found it fascinating to learn how the author managed to convincingly reproduce the effects of age on paintings, and how he duped experts and auction houses.

As a story it is entertaining but as a memoir I found it lacking in writing style and substance. I would have appreciated more research into the artists he forged, or about the art industry. For instance, there is no scale with which to compare the amount he received for his forgeries. It would have been easy enough to say the average value of the original paintings at the time so that the reader can better appreciate Perenyi's skills as a forger. Also, there is no "character development" in the sense that the author does not reveal his motivations or inner thoughts beyond financial needs and the thrill of duping experts.
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on January 13, 2014
Among the less seemly of American literary traditions is the glorification of villains. Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Willie Sutton - the list is long. Comes now Ken Perenyi, a low life liar, swindler and art forger. In line with this ignoble tradition, this memoir transforms his crimes into playful and glamorous events.

Perenyi, who barely made it through high school, makes no secret of the fact that his account was patched together by a host of ghost writers and editors. They did a commendable job; the book is readable and amusing. Especially intriguing are the mechanical details of how Perenyi manufactured his forgeries. He skillfully employed period wooden boards or canvases, found old frames, developed ways to simulate ancient cracks, fly specks and aged varnish.

Perenyi was clever, of that there is little doubt. He brags about his prowess and is eminently proud of his deceptions and deceits. He is proud that he outmaneuvered and outlasted the FBI which had him in its sight for years. He seems proud, also, that his friends and associates were, by and large, also riff-raff, thieves and con-men of one sort or another.

Nowhere do these “confessions” so much as hint at regret concerning the significant harm Perenyi brought to the art market. That harm involves far more than just the individuals who paid large sums for forgeries they believed to be authentic. The larger damage is that trust is widely undermined. The entire market for serious paintings by renowned artists loses credibility. When even alleged experts and auction houses are either fooled or complicit, whom is one to believe?

It is hard to know how to rate this book. Its anecdotes about the antics of Perenyi’s thuggish friends are entertaining and the details of his own chicanery are not without fascination. But turning an immoral and unrepentant crook into a sort of hero is not a commendable act. Adding to his fame and wealth by means of a publication celebrating his criminality amounts to a form of vindication that he hardly deserves.
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on April 16, 2013
Ken Perenyl stumbled into forging by a series of serendipitous meetings. By his account and by the circumstances he outlines, he has a pitch-perfect gift for forgery and a remarkably rare level of skill at painting and emulating a given style, period or medium. Having slapped a fair amount of art supplies onto a variety of surfaces in my day, I was impressed to hear of his progress.

One justification he seems to offer is that art is, to those who might purchase his fakes, a commodity. That his technique and execution might fool leading experts is an accomplishment. The worth a seller and a buyer put on art has little intrinsic attachment to its aesthetic worth. Vincent Van Gogh's works were genious when he first completed them and couldn't sell them for a dime as the were many years later when his canvasses fetch high into eight figure price tags.

Perenyl's forgeries were often of a series that the original artists did for bread and butter. His English Sporting Life works were forged variations on works of 19th century painters who would depict a yatch, a racehorse, a champion dog or bull for his aristocratic patron. His targeted artists might make scores of works that incorporate the same elements and settings...Perenyl would do yet another (posthumus) variation with period materials and pigments and then 'age' the painting to authenticity. The deception was that he would take it to an auction house, present it as a find he scored in a flea market or the English equivilant of a yard sale and then let the auction house experts pronounce it genuine and sell it for thousands.

So he's not making Monet's Waterlilies, breaking into the Lourve and swapping his for the real. He has made a fat living off of what is the moral equivelant of a three card monte game, one with immeasurably greater skill on his part than a street corner huckster might have. What he did with his life is wrong, but the legalities are vague on the matter, enough that he remained free his whole career and can write this tell-all memoir.

Anyone interested in the mechanics of painting must read this. Anyone interested in the world of auctions, art collecting and art investment should read this. And last but foremost, anyone who likes a good, stylish villian should definately give this book a reading. It is as entertaining as it is informative and provocative.
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My grandmother set out to collect nineteenth century American art, and in doing so never bought one painting created by Ken Perenyi. There were two principal reason for this. First Perenyi's faux masterpieces were sold in respectable galleries for high prices and my grandmother never paid more than ten dollars for any painting. And secondly, my grandmother's collection was largely complete before Ken Perenyi took his first brush to canvas.

None of this is to say there weren't striking similarities in these two larger than life characters. Both were self-taught. My grandmother felt the stretchers of every painting she bought-"If it's rough thats oak and it means it's English. If its smooth, it's pine and American. Perenyi studied much more extensively for he had to paint as if he were a nineteenth century artist. Of the two Perenyi worked harder and acquired the most thorough technical education. Being an art forger is much harder work than amassing a collection.

Perenyi is roughly my age and following a stint in what we now call an alternative school, set out to get rich by hook or crook, mostly crook. Along the way he acquired a Bentley, befriended Roy Cohn, made several small fortunes, and fooled a lot of pompous experts. Two of the experts he fooled, a Miami antiques dealer and a plastic surgeon I actually knew, and so did my grandmother. The antiques dealer having appraised the art in my mothers estate, some of which came directly from her mother. The plastic surgeon managed to prove that money doesn't increase savvy. He was repeated taken.

Local fun aside, this is a wonderfully entertaining work. I have already sent one copy to some friends of the aforementioned pigeons.
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on November 28, 2015
Really enjoyed this book, although the beginning was rather boring and the author was too self-absorbed. I am a retired art historian and former art dealer and was initially attracted to purchasing this book because of the subject and the fact that the cover depicted the back of a conserved oil painting -- in fact it looks likes the back of paintings that we sold after they were conserved. Well, yes, it was really the case because the conservation work was -- according to the author -- was by the same conservator that we used most often! What I enjoyed was once I waded through the initial chapters, I realized that I knew the people the author was discussing -- and had dealt with many of them 30 years ago. His tales confirmed my long-held suspicion that a lot of what was going on was not quite on the up-and-up! It was this shady side of the art business that prompted us to close our gallery and pursue other paths. We simply got tired of having to constantly be on the look-out for fakes and pastiches and having to always filter out the "bad" so we could be truly legitimate and ethical dealers. Still, it was fun to "revisit" old haunts and now deceased former colleagues, clients and associates.
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on October 10, 2013
This amazing story has the serious art world in a real quandary. A juvenile delinquent with no prospects, except that he could draw and paint well, ends up as an art forger so good that experts cannot tell the fakes from the real paintings, does no jail time, and now has a real business copying famous paintings that he sells for less than the real thing. I'm an artist and recently met an art appraiser who told me that "nobody is authenticating anything" based on the revelations in this book. It is a fast read--probably Mr. Perenyi had help writing it since he wasn't much of a reader or book lover. However it reads like he is telling you what happened over the last 50 years or so, and I read it, spellbound, in a day and a half. His creativity astounded me when he figured out how to make the varnish on his fakes react to ultraviolet light like the originals. He has put the auction houses in a tizzy. The FBI won't release his file due to some loophole in the law. I cannot wait for the movie!
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on March 20, 2013
Fascinating. Absorbing. But I was torn between the idea that Perenyi was cheating & the idea that his cheating was so artfully done that it was an "art" in itself! I found myself rooting for him even though I'm usually a "catch the crooks" kind of person. It's the same feeling I got reading The Art of Making Money by Jason Kersten. Kersten wrote about a counterfeiter who cleverly cheated the US Government by his artful counterfeiting. Likewise, Pereyni's story taps into a hidden feeling probably all of us have in which we like it when the bad-guy wins (esp. w/o hurting anyone). We're jealous of their success. NOTE TO KINDLE/AMAZON: There is no indication ANYWHERE in the book (table of contents included) that there are photos at the very end. It would've been very nice to have known they existed as I was reading! Especially in this book about visual art. Please address this problem somehow. It happens a lot.
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