Provenance – It’s What We’re Reading

April 2011

A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.


Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
Lainey Salisbury and Aly Sujoe

Provenance is defined as the “history of the ownership of a work of art or an antique.” (Oxford English Dictionary) An artwork’s provenance also helps determine its authenticity. An incorrect or inconsistent provenance is a warning sign to dealers that it may be a forgery. Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo’s book Provenance, tells the true story of how two men not only successfully sold forged paintings but also fabricated their provenance to keep dealers and curators in the dark. Provenance focuses on two men: John Myatt, struggling artist and single father and John Drewe, supposed physicist and art collector. Both Johns meet, with Drewe finding out that Myatt has an uncanny ability to reproduce any modern masterpiece, from Giocometti to Picasso. Myatt quickly finds himself painting dozens of works for Drewe, who is selling these “masterpieces” to prestigious dealers and museums in England and beyond. Soon the dealers start to ask questions and Drewe begins to fabricate documents to prove their provenance.
Provenance provides a look into the world of art, but also explores how a man (John Drewe) conned his way into some of the greatest galleries and museums in the western world. Did I mention this charade lasted for nine years?

can be found in the Popular Fiction on the 1st floor of the Library.