My book club decided on Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi, a memoir about his life as an art forger, before I came up with the idea of dedicating my summer to art. The book is interesting, entertaining, educational and a bit humorous as well as surprising.
Perenyi was a kid without any idea of what he wanted to do with his life when he met a group of people in the New York City art scene just after he graduated high school. The young adults introduced him to the art scene and included him in their parties and social circle during the late 1960’s. As someone who always hated school but was good with his hands Ken fit right in and was encouraged to create. He became interested in antique furniture and old paintings and the process of restoring them which led to a realization that he could create paintings that looked like pieces art collectors would pay top money for. In the beginning Perenyi thought the skill to be a temporary way of earning money in order to fund his own art but it became his life career.
The book is filled with an array of characters you’d imagine a person coming into contact with through such a line of work. Perenyi becomes friends with fashion models, mobsters, cleptomaniacs, drug addicts, lawyers, thieves, art restorers and wealthy collectors. We are taken through Pernyi’s young adulthood into present times and see how his career develops and how he adapts to challenges. What interested me most was reading about how he was able to simulate the cracking of old paint and the aging of varnish. He hunted for old panels and canvases to paint on to make his the materials authentic and he learned a lot by working in art restoration.
Perenyi’s writing style is simple, his art is in painting, after all; but the book is interesting at the very least. I have always said that if I could do any other career it would be in art restoration and the book has me thinking about that path again. I completed it as I ended my trip to Greece, which seemed very appropriate.