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Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age (edition 2013)

by Jonathon Keats

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Member:siriaeve
Title:Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age
Authors:Jonathon Keats
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (2013), Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:**
Tags:nonfiction, history, art history

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Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age by Jonathon Keats

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Although I agree that this book was more for true art historians or experts and I was somewhat lost in it, the ideas of forgery changing in its perception is interesting to me. I requested this book through librarything because of my interest in art heists and in the history of art theft in war time. Even though I wasn't able to appreciate or understand all of his ideas, it made me expand my little brain cells and that's always good. ( )
  EllenH | Feb 7, 2014 |
Jonathon Keats, an American conceptual artist, biographies several major art forgers from the 20th century as he argues that their work is just as deserving as the authentic masterpieces they imitated of admiration. From Han van Meegeren, who went on trial for collaborating with the Nazis and painted an imitation Vermeer in court to prove his innocence, to Tom Keating, the artist who hid messages in his forgeries or used 20th century materials to prove connoisseurs could be easily fooled, Keats explores the careers of the men who tricked the art world with fake masterpieces. Keats follows his biographies with a study of contemporary art and the appropriation of forgers’ techniques and philosophies in modern works.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section, “The Art of Forgery”, discusses historical cases of forgery, and how attitudes have changed since the Renaissance, when Andrea del Sarto duplicated a Raphael to satisfy his Medici patron. The artist was praised for his ingenuity, as the recipient of the painting claimed, “I value it no less than if it were by the hand of Rafaello. Nay, even more, for it is something out of the course of nature that a man of excellence should imitate the manner of another so well, and should make a copy so like. It is enough that it should be known that Andrea’s genius was as valiant in double harness as in single.”

Obviously, attitudes had changed in the 20th century, and part two, “Six Modern Masters” contains the biographies of Lothar Malskat, Alceo Dossena, Han van Meegeren, Eric Hebborn, Elmyr de Hory, and Tom Keating. That all six of these men managed to create so many forgeries and fool so many people seems hardly credible, but as Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”** I really enjoyed this section of the book; each chapter is long enough that you get a good sense of the personality and motivations of the con artist. When I finished, I wanted to run out and find longer biographies of these men; with the exception of Malskat, all the painters have English biographies, although I believe some of them are out of print.

The third part of the book, “Forging a New Art”, begins with the example of Andy Warhol reproducing the Mona Lisa using silk-screening as an example of appropriation, a subgenre of art that has grown in the 20th and 21st century as modern artists engage with and challenge the past. Keating then examines other examples of artists’ forger-like activities. J. S. G. Boggs’ paid for items and services with hand-drawn bills; the sellers knowingly accepted the fake bills in lieu of cash. Street artists use stencils to create easily-reproduced images and deface existing advertisements with provocative new messages. Although he doesn’t mention his own work with “thought experimentation,” Keats could have easily written some of his own projects into this final section.

I thought the biographies and art history were quite interesting, since forgers don’t get a lot of face time in classroom discussions. I did not find Keats’ arguments broadly applicable to all contemporary art. His conclusion seemed a bit rushed and ends with the following statement: "The time has come to dump the Mona Lisa and dismiss Leonardo the talented painter. Fearless artists must resurrect and reinvent Leonardo the renegade scientist." Whether the time has come or not for this, I cannot say, but I don’t think Keats argued it convincingly enough in Forged.

Note: The ARC that I received did not have any images in it; I assume (but haven’t yet had a chance to confirm) that the final copies do have at least some of the pictures mentioned printed inside. If they do not, the book could be frustrating for those unfamiliar with art history since the reader will have no idea what Keats is talking about whenever he mentions the name of a painting.

**I feel obligated the note that though this phrase is generally credited to P. T. Barnum, many of his friends and family disagreed with the attribution. It has alternatively been attributed to Mark Twain and Michael Cassius McDonald. ( )
1 vote makaiju | Feb 1, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was a very interesting read. It raised the questions of what is art and what is forgery and what is a copy and what is (or is there) the value of each...and who decides. The stories of the six forgers were quite fascinating and made for,some compelling reading. I would have liked to have seen more examples of forgery and photos in the book. ( )
  lyncos | Jan 22, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really quite enjoyed this book. I read an advance copy so I can only speak to that edition. Keats discussion of the impact of forgeries was very stimulating and provided significant food for thought. If one can perfectly replicate the work of another down to the finest detail, is that not artistic skill as well. Are we more concerned with beauty or with provenance and value? The second half of this book, discusses the careers of six forgers. While I cannot endorse deception, really interesting. The writing style is intelligent and engaging and I recommend this book to those looking for an interesting read. ( )
  SRB5729 | Jan 16, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If the purpose of contemporary art is to unsettle and to cause anxiety, might forgeries then be true art? asks Jonathon Keats in Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age. Of course, it only achieves its goal when it is revealed to be a fake, which is usually not the goal of the forger. But some, upon being discovered, tell all, or a version of all, in which some forgeries are possibly left unrevealed and fingers pointed in so many directions that museums, collectors and experts are left scrambling.

The body of Keats' book tells the stories of several famous forgers and a history of the roots of forgery, beginning in renaissance Italy, when copies were made of coveted works, leading to arguments later as to which version was the original. In this book, forgers seem to have similar motivations; technically brilliant, but lacking a personal vision or style, these artists were rejected by the critics and art community. They found work as restorers and their dissatisfaction allowed them to justify the deception. When their forgeries were celebrated, they could enjoy a secret laugh at the gullibility of the art community. Of course, revenge is only fun when the targets know they have been duped.

My favorite story concerned the restoration of the Schleswig cathedral in 1937. It had been badly restored in the nineteenth century with significant overpainting and as Lothar Malskat began work, entire frescoes crumbled to dust. So he simply recovered the walls with his own freehand painting. The church's restoration became a Nazi success story, with Himmler having books about the project distributed to schools across Germany. With the reputation of the Nazi party at stake, the discovery of a group of turkeys embellishing a painting supposedly painted in 1300 had to be explained away, turkeys being new world animals. And so a group of German vikings who sailed to the new world and brought back the animals was "discovered", because questioning a Nazi endorsed project was too dangerous. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Jan 6, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199928355, Hardcover)

According to Vasari, the young Michelangelo often borrowed drawings of past masters, which he copied, returning his imitations to the owners and keeping originals. Half a millennium later, Andy Warhol made a game of "forging" the Mona Lisa, questioning the entire concept of originality.

Forged explores art forgery from ancient times to the present. In chapters combining lively biography with insightful art criticism, Jonathon Keats profiles individual art forgers and connects their stories to broader themes about the role of forgeries in society. From the Renaissance master Andrea del Sarto who faked a Raphael masterpiece at the request of his Medici patrons, to the Vermeer counterfeiter Han van Meegeren who duped the avaricious Hermann Göring, to the frustrated British artist Eric Hebborn, who began forging to expose the ignorance of experts, art forgers have challenged "legitimate" art in their own time, breaching accepted practices and upsetting the status quo. They have also provocatively confronted many of the present-day cultural anxieties that are major themes in the arts. Keats uncovers what forgeries--and our reactions to them--reveal about changing conceptions of creativity, identity, authorship, integrity, authenticity, success, and how we assign value to works of art. The book concludes by looking at how artists today have appropriated many aspects of forgery through such practices as street-art stenciling and share-and-share-alike licensing, and how these open-source "copyleft" strategies have the potential to make legitimate art meaningful again.

Forgery has been much discussed--and decried--as a crime. Forged is the first book to assess great forgeries as high art in their own right.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:47 -0400)

Forged explores art forgery from ancient times to the present. In chapters combining lively biography with insightful art criticism, Jonathon Keats profiles individual art forgers and connects their stories to broader themes about the role of forgeries in society. From the Renaissance master Andrea del Sarto who faked a Raphael masterpiece at the request of his Medici patrons, to the Vermeer counterfeiter Han van Meegeren who duped the avaricious Hermann Gring, to the frustrated British artist Eric Hebborn, who began forging to expose the ignorance of experts, art forgers have challenged "legitimate" art in their own time, breaching accepted practices and upsetting the status quo. They have also provocatively confronted many of the present-day cultural anxieties that are major themes in the arts. Keats uncovers what forgeries--and our reactions to them--reveal about changing conceptions of creativity, identity, authorship, integrity, authenticity, success, and how we assign value to works of art. The book concludes by looking at how artists today have appropriated many aspects of forgery through such practices as street-art stenciling and share-and-share-alike licensing, and how these open-source "copyleft" strategies have the potential to make legitimate art meaningful again.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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