Tag: Laney Salisbury

Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Posted July 10, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly SujoTitle: Provenance (Goodreads)
Author: Aly Sujo, Laney Salisbury
Published: Penguin, 2009
Pages: 301
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

For those that don’t know, a provenance is a document (or documents) that chronologies the ownership of a historical object. In the art world, the provenance serves almost like a certificate of authenticity as well as a historical document of the ownership, custodies or locations the piece has been displayed. The problem was, there was a time in art history where authenticating a provenance was all you needed to prove the art was genuine. This lead to all kinds of problems, in the world of computers and photocopiers it became very easier to make a document look authenticate than it was to forge a painting. This book explores this very problem; Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art tells the story of what was described as ‘the biggest art fraud in the 20th century’.

Provenance has one of the most extraordinary narratives I’ve ever read in a non-fiction book; it reads like an art thriller, full of suspense and mystery. It wasn’t what I expected from a true crime book on art history, I was hooked in this world and on the edge of my seat to find out what will happen next. The authors of this book, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo are both investigative reporters and spent the time to research and tell us the story of John Drewe, a villainous con man that set out to defraud the art world. Recruiting a struggling artist, John Myatt, to paint the forges, it is estimated that over 200 forgeries were made and only about 60 of them recovered. This means there is about 140 paintings still out there been accredited to artists like Giacometti, Dubuffet and so on.

If I may, I want to quickly touch on the problematic approach to authenticating a provenance rather than a painting. As I said before the use of computers and photocopiers made it easy to fake these documents, but John Drewe went further by sneaking forged documents of auctions, gallery displays and so on into the archives of museums and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. What was scary about the elaborate efforts Drewe went to to make this provenance real is the fact a test on the painting might have been so much quicker. If they took the effort to test the paint they would have found that Myatt used a combination of emulsion paint, K-Y Jelly and then vanish to make the paintings look like oil paintings.

All my knowledge on art forgery came from people like Neal Caffrey (White Collar) so I’m not nearly knowledgeable on the topic, as I’d like to be. Art history and art crimes can be fascinating topics and what I loved about Provenance is how it showed how crime seeps in and becomes part of the history. When John Myatt served his time he decided not to point out any paintings that he had done, and that raises an interesting question. Is it better to point out the 140 or so fakes still out there and have the owners lose all that money or not? If a fake is just going to be burnt is it better to own up to the forgery or let it remain a piece of art? The financial and artistic costs would be devastating but what about the moral code that Myatt wished to live by?

This is what made for a fascinating read, I learned a small part of art history, art crimes and it also raised some philosophical questions. I know I might have said a little too much but this is history, can you give spoilers on historic events? It is a great piece of narrative non-fiction and a great way to learn more about art crimes.


Reading Non-Fiction

Posted September 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’m not a non-fiction reader, much to my own disappointment. A few of the non-fiction books I have read have been good and the book that inspired me and turned me into a reader was in fact a non-fiction book. Recently I’ve been inspired with an idea; this idea will require a lot of non-fiction reading and research. So I need to motivate myself in becoming a bigger non-fiction reader.

My research will require some reading up on philosophy, art history and maybe even pop culture which will be good for my blog Knowledge Lost and hopefully will give me some new posts for that poor neglected site. Here is what I need, I want to become a better non-fiction reader so I would love some recommendations of books that I might be interested in and are really interesting reads. It doesn’t have to be related but that would be a bonus; I just want some motivation and I hope some great recommendations will help. Also I need tips and advise to become a non-fiction reader. Do audiobooks make for a good way to get through a non-fiction book?

My idea may never be realised but I feel inspired to research it, even if it takes me a lifetime. My goal to become a non-fiction reader will hopefully be a result in this inspiration. My goal is to read at least one non-fiction a month; this challenge may turn me into the type of reader I want to become. I love learning new things but I need to force myself into reading those non-fiction books. One of the biggest problems is working out how to review these books, so I might just do a mini review or something in order to take some of my pressure off.

I’m not going to tell you about my idea but I will give you a list of books I plan to read; this is a very random list but these books I hope will give me some inspiration and guide me down different paths that might help. I know some of these books will be a big help, others are just interesting or books on my shelves already that might help in one form or another.

  • Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss
  • If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland
  • Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo
  • The Culture Club by Craig Schuftan
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas G. Carr
  • You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay