Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Art Theft of the Century: The Art Forger

The Art Forger
By B. A. Shapiro

The Art forger is worth a read if you are a art enthusiast,  love a mystery, and love books that send subtle messages without your realizing it.  Looking underneath the layers, does it tell us anything?

This is the second novel that I read about art, one after the other. Each one is different then the next. Love and Treasures was about lost art post war Hungary.  The Art Forger is about a famous art heist that took place during the 1990's in Boston at the Isabella Gardner Museum.

The Art Forger takes place in present day Boston. Claire Roth is an artist.  But because of a scandal years ago she only can resort to copying art for a .com art company.  The book goes back and forth in time between her present life, and the scandal that caused her reputation as an artist to plummet.

Claire was approached by a famous art dealer, Aiden Markel to paint, and copy the painting of Degas's masterpiece" After the Bath"( Degas never made a painting called, After the Bath, but has made pieces)

Aiden brought her a copy of, "After the Bath". Kate begins drawing, and copying the art work. But each time she starts working on the piece she becomes more suspicious than the last time she saw it.  She begins to think, this is not a copy like Aiden Markel said, but it is the original.  "But how did he acquire it?"

Then someone by the name of, Patel is arrested for the art forgery of, After the Bath. Did her really do it. Which picture does Claire have? is it a forgery? or is it the real masterpiece of Degas?

We learn about the techniques a forger uses to make a forgery look, and appear like the real thing.  I did not realize there was a technique to use to make a painting appear older than it looks, or even how to make the colors and textures close to the real thing to make it appear to be the original. Personally, I didn't think about it.

 I thought the person just paints the picture. I didn't think there was a process.  But, there are many people out there, or are dead now that fooled many people.  Even to this day, there is speculation of the Mona Lisa, is it real, or is it a forgery that is hanging at the Louvre, in Paris. There is also a famous forger that copied Vameer.

 Between all this we learn about Isabella Gardner, a prominent patron of the arts.  How she acquired Degas's masterpieces.  Were they truly friends? Or just an imaginary thought by the author?   The author, B. A. Shapiro plays with her imagination by drawing on her imagination of a imaginary friendship of Degas and Isabella Gardner.  In the novel, Degas and Gardner became friends while she was acquiring his art work. He made a scandalous picture of her called, After the Bath.

Of course, through all this there has to be a underlying story about the famous art heist( if you visit the link you will see all the art pieces from the heist).  in 1990 at the Gardner Museum.  I was amazed, and surprised what the museum looked like. From the outside, it doesn't look like anything but a ordinary building.

 But, inside it is gorgeous. With the beautiful courtyard, and beautiful antiques.  The art heist may have happened because it was not well guarded. No one would ever think this building would house such famous masterpieces compared to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC  Unless you visited often and knew what you were looking for.   The stolen art pieces that were displayed are honored to this day with empty frames waiting for their return.  Recently as last year, the FBI now knows who has taken the art work. But, their names are not revealed to protect the investigation.

There were 13 masterpieces that were stolen, Yes, I said thirteen. Can you imagine. 
They are so gorgeous.

This one is called" The Concert" by the artist, Vermeer. This piece was the first piece acquired by Isabella Gardner.

My Thoughts: A few years ago, the Art Forger was featured on Bookreporter website from the BEA in NYC.  Why, you must wonder why it took me this long to read this? Good question! I knew this novel would be a good one. I hate to read a book that I know I am going to love. Once I read it, experience it, it will be gone.  I know stupid, but that is my thought process.  

 Our book club is reading this one for next month. I will follow up with our book club post as soon as we have our meeting  I enjoyed reading, The Art Forger.

 It is a smart, escape book that makes you think at the same time.  The novel is multi-layered with such imagination.  If you like a novel that is different, like I said before and you like art, and a bit of mystery, and wonder what is beneath the cover( painting) than this novel is for you.  You won't believe who actually did it!!!( in the novel, not in real life). But, the only thing the ending was a let down. 

 After reading the novel I did my own research on the many topics, and themes in the book.  Who should acquire the masterpieces?". Since it is a part of history should they be privately owned, or should the be exhibited and displayed for public view in the museums around the world?".  You are also probably wondering why are the famous work of art so valuable, and to whom?

My thoughts about that is the statutes of limitation runs out after a certain amount of time. For the Gardner Heist it is already reached. Nothing can be done to them. At this point most people don't care about the criminals. They, like me just want to see the pieces back where they belong, safe and sound.  Most likely some of the pictures are destroyed or damaged. The thieves don't realize there are precautions that should be taken  to protect these very old masterpieces.  We may never see these pictures again. That is what is so sad. Some people are hopeful they will surprise us one day, when we least expect it and resurface after a couple of generations after the publicity has died down. Most of the criminals don't even realize what they have. From the Gardner heist most of them have already died. 

My book club happens to be reading this for our upcoming book club in August. I will post my thoughts soon about that here as well. 

I loved it! 

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