Book Review: The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro.

I’m at the point now where I’m reading so many books that I couldn’t possibly write reviews on all of them unless I wanted that to be a full time job, and last I looked, I’m not making any money doing so.

So, to note at least some of the reading I’m doing, lets take a quick look at B.A. Shapiro’s book, The Art Forger. First off, I had seen some stencil paintings done on U.S. Federal Reserve Notes, or dollars, and was interested enough to try that myself, and with my children. So that I could explain the project to kids, I looked up the laws on both making art out of money, and from an earlier article I read about a quasi-known “Art Forger’s Handbook”, I also looked up the U.S. Laws on Art Forgery. First, either coin, or note, its a crime to damage/alter money. This means drawing on a dollar, melting a coin, both of these are one of the many lackey enforced laws concerning using money as a canvas or medium, specifically when its nothing more than simply artist endeavors. As for Art Forgery, the crime(s) come in to play here when you enter the fraud arena. There is no law preventing you from picking up a brush and making an exact copy of a Monet, nor finding a framed canvas made at the same time so the wood will match wood used from that period, nor mixing paints to match the paints available at the period, nor several hundred other items needed to pass off a newly painted work as done by the original artist. The second you attempt to pass that off to someone else as an original, and get compensation for it, now you’re in hot water.

In The Art Forger, we have a main character who’s modern, not so well paying job is to paint reproductions of the old masters paintings for a company that sells them as just that, well made copies. This fact comes in to play at the end of the book. This book is centered in a ongoing nostalgia/romantic image of the up and comers in the contemporary New York art scene. We get a picture of the power player gallery institutions and personalities, the few adored stars, and not-just-yet but skilled artists who burn the creative work oil to try and cement their place in the big leagues of this fictional cast. This is where the main character resides, just below the surface of “made it.”

I really don’t want to detail much of this plot, as, for a book about artistic painting, it moves quickly, and smartly to keep the reader wanting to know what’s coming next. Like many of the great novels over time, and the same goes for a great deal of artwork, there is often a hidden story, and as not uncommon for those who’s emotional sensory is highly tuned, its often a hidden story of emotions and relationships.

Do you like your artist community Bohemian? Like the idea of a group of artist knowing who posed nude for who’s painting as commonly exchanged information as you might pass on current event news you saw on t.v.? Mistresses, the black market, snooty art establishment types, friend you know coming to the rescue, the honorable v. The dishonorable, old family secrets, a big heist, any of this of interest of you? Well, you’re the type of person likes all that, and see’s a old master’s painting as a priceless work that is so importantly society must do everything to protect it, then grab this book.

To be perfectly transparent, I personally, find no romantic notion of the current, recent, New York art scene. I’d still put this book on my shelves though.

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