Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
Penguin Press, July 2009
Stunningly comprehensive, this real-life tale of one of the most elaborate and wide-spread art cons in the history of the world is at the same time a real page turner. It is very easy to turn an examination like this into an in-depth passionless academic examination of the development and actions of a high-level immoral thief and his minions. These authors have not done that. Rather, they have produced a novel-like high-wire examination of the people and those who consciously or inadvertently aided and abetted the talented counterfeiter, and his masterful, flexible Svengali, the consummate con artist, John Drew.
Of course, their weaving, dodging path of destruction through the British art scene in the mid twentieth-century was supported in great measure by the lustful desires for acquisition of great art by relatively unschooled but wealthy “patrons.” Many of these supporters of artistic creators and their art seemed to care more about the public and private recognition they received for their art collections, and supposed taste, than they did for the actual art and artists.
After reading this reportage, one is forced to wonder who now, in the halls of their mansions, look upon their prized, often expensive, framed pictures and wonder if they are real, or are they too, victims of this great con. Because art experts, as reported by these authors in this meticulously researched book, aver that there are demonstrably hundreds of still unrecognized fakes, valued in the multiple thousands of dollars, hanging in homes and museums and offices all over the world. It gives one pause, and it should.
A stunning work everyone interested in the world of making and collecting art should read.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.