Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger

Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger - Ken Perenyi What led me to this book was the book description itself … “Ten years ago, an FBI investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York was about to expose a scandal in the art world that would have been front–page news in New York and London. After a trail of fake paintings of astonishing quality led federal agents to art dealers, renowned experts, and the major auction houses, the investigation inexplicably ended, despite an abundance of evidence collected. The case was closed and the FBI file was marked “exempt from public disclosure.” Now that the statute of limitations on these crimes has expired and the case appears hermetically sealed shut by the FBI, Caveat Emptor is Ken Perenyi’s confession. It is the story, in detail, of how he pulled it all off.”

This sounded like something I would enjoy … and I did for the most part. It’s difficult for me to pick apart an autobiographical book, because let’s face it; it is the story of someone’s life. This book deals with some interesting facts about art forgery and the methods Mr. Perenyi developed for his craft (some methods mentioned in other books on the subject of art forgery as well … so as he points out in this book … he was indeed very good at what he did). Although Mr. Perenyi is very forthcoming about his forgeries and the subsequent FBI investigations I was left wanting a little bit more. Simply a matter of too many unanswered questions at the end of the tale … like the FBI file about the investigation the ending of this book also seems to be marked “exempt from public disclosure”.

My burning question probably has no place in a book review, but I’m throwing it out there anyway – If a painter is so talented that he can convincingly recreate masterpieces, why is he not making a name for himself in the art world? Is the money truly the root of all evil? Is it laziness? Is it the challenge? Or is it, as Mr. Perenyi states, simply a matter of being born in the wrong century to create the art you love?