Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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

Book description:
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. 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 looks at 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. 

I love books about art forgery, and so was very excited to receive this one to review. Unfortunately, my initial excitement soon wained when it became clear this book didn't really seem to have a central cohesive premise. I definitely enjoyed the in depth look at some renowned forgers (I would have like some illustrations of the art in question but I read a review copy so this may have been addressed in the final for sale version), and I found myself suprisingly sympathetic to the idea that great forgers are still great artists if they are creating new works rather than just churning out multiple copies of the Mona Lisa. 

The book is scholarly in tone and certainly presumes some familiarity with the language of art criticism. Though I enjoyed everything I read in the book, at the end I found myself questioning why the book was written because there just didn't seem to be an underlying thesis. Perhaps a longer work would have allowed the author to more fully develop his themes; as it was, I was left feeling unsatisfied as a reader.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Vanity Fare: A novel of lattes, literature, and love by Megan Caldwell

Book description:

Molly Hagan is overwhelmed. Her cheating husband left her for a younger blonde, her six-year-old son is questioning her authority, and she’s starting a job as a copywriter for a local Brooklyn bakery.  She doesn’t need the complications of a new love. But the bakery’s sexy British pastry chef is determined to win her heart. And there is his intimidating and oh so irresistible business partner...who happens to have a secret that might prevent Molly from getting her own Happily Ever After.

Molly and her 6 year-old son Aidan are struggling to find their footing six months after husband and father Hugh left, but the struggle becomes more acute when his company implodes and Molly is left with the need to find a job fast to keep a roof over their head. As Molly learns to trust herself and to forge a new path, she also of course finds love again.

This story of one woman's journey to find herself after her husband leaves her for a younger woman doesn't break any new ground, but is an enjoyable weekend read. At times I found myself very irritated by Molly who surely should have seen some of her troubles coming. Aidan is a delightful character, certainly a better choice to spend a life with than any of the men Molly is involved with throughout the book. At times quite enjoyable, at time quite frustrating, this is an OK chick lit offering.