Forged: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age

Jonathon Keats, Author
Jonathon Keats. Oxford Univ., $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-19-992835-4
Reviewed on: 08/13/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
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In his introduction, critic, journalist, and artist Keats (Virtual Worlds) asserts that fakes—old forgeries and new works falsely attributed to old masters—are “the great art of our age.” While acknowledging that their artistic merit lies elsewhere than in the aesthetic, the author claims that “art forgeries achieve what legitimate art accomplishes when legitimate art is most effective,” namely, causing us to confront troubling truths about “ourselves and our world.” To substantiate this claim, Keats devotes the bulk of his book to portraits of six fakers throughout history, highlighting different questions that their work raises. But with the exception of the author’s consideration of forger Eric Hebborn, who subverted the view of art history as a progressive continuum, these profiles don’t do much to substantiate Keats’s bold claims. He saves the heavy lifting for his conclusion, in which he considers contemporary approaches to art that riff on the forger’s work, such as appropriation and street art. But as he decries most appropriation as being locked in a self-referential holding pattern, while declaring science the new frontier of boundary smashing, it’s unclear why Keats has devoted most of his book to profiling artistic frauds. Agent: Elise Capron, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Jan.)
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