Forged by Jonathon Keats
Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age

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It seems to me that a distinction ought to have been drawn between forgeries and fakes.


According to Vasari, the young Michelangelo often borrowed drawings of past masters, which he copied, returning his imitations to the owners and keeping originals. Half a millennium later, Andy Warhol made a game of "forging" the Mona Lisa, questioning the entire concept of originality.

Forged explores art forgery from ancient times to the present. In chapters combining lively biography with insightful art criticism, Jonathon Keats profiles individual art forgers and connects their stories to broader themes about the role of forgeries in society. From the Renaissance master Andrea del Sarto who faked a Raphael masterpiece at the request of his Medici patrons, to the Vermeer counterfeiter Han van Meegeren who duped the avaricious Hermann G?ring, to the frustrated British artist Eric Hebborn, who began forging to expose the ignorance of experts, art forgers have challenged "legitimate" art in their own time, breaching accepted practices and upsetting the status quo. They have also provocatively confronted many of the present-day cultural anxieties that are major themes in the arts. Keats uncovers what forgeries--and our reactions to them--reveal about changing conceptions of creativity, identity, authorship, integrity, authenticity, success, and how we assign value to works of art. The book concludes by looking at how artists today have appropriated many aspects of forgery through such practices as street-art stenciling and share-and-share-alike licensing, and how these open-source "copyleft" strategies have the potential to make legitimate art meaningful again.

Forgery has been much discussed--and decried--as a crime. Forged is the first book to assess great forgeries as high art in their own right.

About Jonathon Keats

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Jonathon Keats is a critic, journalist and artist. He is the art critic for San Francisco Magazine, and has contributed art criticism to Art & Antiques, Art + Auction, Art in America, ARTnews, Artweek, and His arts writing has also appeared in Wired Magazine, ForbesLife Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is most recently the author of Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology (OUP). His conceptual art has been exhibited at venues including the Berkeley Art Museum, the Hammer Museum, and the Wellcome Collection.
Published January 3, 2013 by Oxford University Press. 206 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Above average
Reviewed by Stuart Kelly on Jun 28 2013

It seems to me that a distinction ought to have been drawn between forgeries and fakes.

Read Full Review of Forged: Why Fakes are the Gre... | See more reviews from Guardian

Washington Times

Above average
Reviewed by John Taylor and John M. Taylor on Apr 05 2013

The author is at his best in recounting these tales of notorious forgers, although the reader is conscious of the absence of illustrations. Mr. Keats is less persuasive when he philosophizes that copies are great art.

Read Full Review of Forged: Why Fakes are the Gre... | See more reviews from Washington Times

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