Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi

Why I Read It: Art + History + Real Crime = Interesting Read.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you have an interest in the late 1900s art forging scene, this book hits the spot.

Narrator: Dan Butler

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 9 hours 54 minutes

Buyer, beware. That is the moral of this nonfiction tale of the artist and art forger Ken Perenyi. From simple beginnings, young Ken finds himself hanging out with art appreciators and artists who encourage his own interest. In an effort to explore his ability, he mimics some of his favorite artists, only to discover his initial modest ability to accurately recreate another’s work. Set mostly in New York, Florida, and England, this book chronicles Perenyi from young artist to modern-day jaded art recreationist.

One of the most interesting parts of this book was the detailed information on the techniques of producing aging effects, fly spots, and staining or dirty varnish. It was fascinating to ride along as the author tried this or that to mimic certain traits of various artists. His appreciation of the various art styles comes through clearly. Yet I find it contradictory to then cheapen the art by passing recreations off as the original work. Still, my own moral view point did not lessen my enjoyment of this book.

After reading this book, I fear I will be a bit more jaded about buying art, especially at auction. It seems an easy and fertile ground for the less than scrupulous to make money. While the author initially got into recreating art to pay the bills, later on it became evident that he possessed enough skills to make a decent living doing something else but the challenge of recreating a style and passing it off as original was too much of a draw. Oh, and the millions of dollars his efforts sometimes fetched.

The audio narration by Dan Butler was well done, filling in for the voice of the author Ken Perenyi. The author’s sense of wonder at various paintings, his loss of dear friends, and anxiety over nearly being caught at one time or another came through clearly.

What I Liked: The art appreciation; the adventure of it all; the detailed info about how to make forgeries and a few hints of what to look for.

What I Disliked: Art appreciation morphed into an over-inflated sense of self appreciation and money appreciation.

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