Quick review: The Art of Forgery

August 4, 2017

Words like “fake” and “fakery” are reactionary words to magicians. The former word, whether it’s used as a noun or a verb, is warming to deceptionists of every stripe. How alluring are decks of cards called Fako-o? Don’t we love to “fake out” spectators? Don’t we routinely simulate, pretend, and dissimulate? Don’t we conceal and improvise (as musicians do when they “fake it” by playing unscored music? 

This is why Noah Charney’s 294-page book (The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of the Master Forgers) caught my eye—not to mention the allurement of the starkly bold message on its back cover trumpeting: “The world wishes to be deceived—So let it be deceived.” 

Although this book does not directly relate to the trickery most of us like to read about, it does show how principles of deception applied by master forgers from antiquity to today are used to deceive the art world. The author exposes the tricks of their trade and describes how they were eventually caught. The more fascinating aspect of the book is what it reveals regarding how the art world is and the way it is complicit by its willingness to believe what it assumes to see and know.