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The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious…

The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the…

by Anthony M. Amore

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435267,810 (3.5)2



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I didn't think that half of the art fraud methods in this book even existed until I read this book. It's eleven chapters of very disturbing con men and women scamming innocent museums, artists and buyers. Each chapter has a different story and technique used to sell fraudulent art.

The scale that people will go to and the lies that they tell to make people believe it is astonishing. Just the fact that there is an entire book on art fraud is a clue. The chapters are relatively short, or they seem short because each is this own individual story. Amore keeps the reader excited too, he tells the facts but keeps it from being too dry.

It's a very good book, worth at least a look or maybe purchasing it on Kindle. I bought my copy at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where Anthony M. Amore works as Director of Security. It is also a signed copy. Great for people how are interested in nonfiction art mysteries. ( )
  rachel_stewart19 | Sep 7, 2016 |
Really boring. Couldn't get past the first chaper ( )
  cjordan916 | Apr 25, 2016 |
A fast-paced romp through a series of art cons, mostly dating from the late twentieth century (with a few from just the last few years). Most of these case studies go back to the old saw: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! It's somewhat amazing to see how far out on a limb people will go to believe that they're getting a great deal, ignoring so many red flags (though of course those are far more visible in hindsight). It's also remarkable how many different types of cons and schemes Amore is able to profile. Along with the schemers, Amore also covers the scientists and law enforcement folks who combat such shenanigans.

For all the variations and great anecdotes, by the end the book does start to feel just a bit formulaic, and it would have been useful if Amore were able to offer a bit more in the way of guidance on how collectors, dealers, and museum professionals can protect themselves against the folks out there trying very hard to con them. But even with those quibbles, this book should find a wide audience among readers interested in the underbelly of the art world. ( )
  JBD1 | Jul 26, 2015 |
* I received this ebook at no charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

“Indeed, while the art of art theft is said to be in the selling of the art, not the thievery, the art of the art scams is in the backstory, not in the picture itself.”

Mr. Amore begins his book with the story of John E. Swords’ purchase of the “Portrait of George Washington” from the artist, Gilbert Stuart. Despite living in virtual poverty Stuart was willing to sell the painting only on the condition that it never be copied or reproduced. Swords agreed – of course he did – and then immediately traveled to China where he enlisted their well-practiced copyists to make 100 reproductions of the painting. This betrayal of Gilbert Stuart was the first major “art scam” in American history. The good Captain Swords, however, was not the first to come up with idea of reproducing art for personal profit. Even Michelangelo is said to have sculpted a sleeping cupid figure and then artificially aged it in order to sell it as a lost treasure.

Why would a talented artist resort to fraud and forgery? That is the question that constantly nags at my mind when I read about these elaborate schemes and scams. The answer of course is a combination of greed and opportunity. As Mr. Amore so often points out, everyone wants to believe they have found a lost treasure or an unbelievable bargain … they want it so desperately that they are willing to short-circuit their good judgment and often their own expertise. This creates fertile ground for these forgers and con artists to ply their trade.

As the book progresses the reader learns about art fraud and forgery (and yes there is a difference) in chapters dealing with the forgeries themselves, unscrupulous art brokers, overly trusting artists and art “Ponzi schemes” through to disreputable television auctions and Internet scams.

I enjoyed Mr. Amore’s previous book “Stealing Rembrandts” very much and I was quite excited to receive this one for review; once again I was not disappointed. From the distant past of copying each artist’s brush stroke through to using today’s technology Mr. Amore touches on almost every known scenario. I use the term “touches on” quite purposely. If you are looking for an in depth biography of the forgers and a how-to, step-by-step technical explanation of how the forgeries were produced, I am sure that those books are available somewhere, but you won’t find that in this book and I don’t think that is the purpose of this book. This book gives a reader like myself – someone interested in art and curious about the forgeries, frauds, scams and cons – an easily read and understandable book with enough information to satisfy my curiosity and then (if I so choose) to use Mr. Amore’s extensive source list to delve deeper.

I always find it difficult when it comes to rating a non-fiction book. Obviously, since I picked up the book, the subject matter interests me already or I may want to begin learning more about it. If the book meets that need, and “The Art of the Con” certainly does, then it should deserve five stars. So, why did I only go with four in this case? Two reasons; firstly, although overall it was a book I enjoyed reading, occasionally Mr. Amore’s conversational style of writing slipped into a bit of a “text book” mode that felt a little dry. Secondly, (and this is a purely personal preference so excuse me if I sound like a whiny toddler), I wish that the book had included pictures. This subject is very visual and I often found myself going online to look up the works of art I was reading about – unfortunately, I do not always read in close proximity to a computer.

CORRECTION: After I posted this review Mr. Amore was kind enough to get in touch with me to let me know that although my ARC copy did not have pictures the final published work will indeed have color pictures included. Good to know ... I'll look forward to checking them out. So, let's bump that rating up to 4.5 stars!
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
A fascinating look at global art thefts, cons, and forgeries in the past few hundred years, as well as what motivates and entices people into participating in them. Vanity, a quest for money, or even for the pleasure of getting away from it all play out in this book's pages. Recommended for fans of Hoving's Making the Mummies Dance and Felch's Mighty Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum. Highly recommended. Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.com. (148) ( )
  activelearning | Jul 7, 2015 |
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"Art scams are today so numerous that the specter of a lawsuit arising from a mistaken attribution has scared a number of experts away from the business of authentication, and with good reason. Art scams are increasingly convincing and involve incredible sums of money. The cons perpetrated by unscrupulous art dealers and their accomplices are proportionately elaborate. The Art of the Con tells the stories of some of history's most notorious yet untold cons. They involve stolen art hidden for decades; elaborate ruses that involve the Nazis and allegedly plundered art; the theft of a conceptual prototype from a well-known artist by his assistant to be used later to create copies; the use of online and television auction sites to scam buyers out of millions; and other confidence scams incredible not only for their boldness but more so because they actually worked. Using interviews and newly released court documents, The Art of the Con will also take the reader into the investigations that led to the capture of the con men, who oftentimes return back to the world of crime. For some, it's an irresistible urge because their innocent dupes all share something in common: they want to believe"--… (more)

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