What is art? Enjoying The Art Forger

February 13, 2016

I just finished a book. So? Well…with great books piled on many surfaces around my bedroom, the time never seems to avail. I’ll have the best intentions – like selecting one to take on a trip, but I work for hours in the car or upon settling in on a plane, I tend to open the in-flight magazine and flip through the articles – generally discovering some tasty tidbits and then nod off for the rest of the flight – whether for 45 minutes or 4 hours! No better chance upon arrival at the destination, as relaxing is generally not my primary activity anywhere!!

So the recent completion of The Art Forger was a silly accomplishment by most people’s the art forgermeasure.  I followed B. A. Shapiro’s protagonist, Claire, as she navigated the mystery of a missing Degas. Set in a relatively small footprint of NYC, the story is one that could only effectively happen here in this city of superlatives. From the best of the beset to the worst of the worst  and the enormous middle ground of mediocrity which again is superlative due to its sheer density of people, texture, concentration of multi-cultural influences, exceptional urban scenarios and unique prospects.



I have imagined Claire and her extraordinary artistic talents living in a one horse town someplace in the  middle of nowhere. This story would not take place or it would have to have had many more chapters and be quite convoluted. In NYC the seemingly faceless masses live, thrive, struggle and prosper in a dense infrastructure of architecture and opportunity. It provides a setting and gathering of people breathing the aspirations of personal dreams and collective shared frustrations and weary survival efforts in a remarkably competitive urban microcosm(s).

The story centers around Claire’s innate and learned talent for reproducing paintings. With which talents, she actually works for a company who pays her to copy originals for sale. Degas bathers She is not forging as that would mean that the copies were intended to be marketed as, or represent, or be sold as though the original. Hers are legally sold as reproductions – until the plot thickens…Where a love interest, temptations of wealth and fame, innocent confusion and clever problem solving are woven between the past and the present and ultimately begs the question about the value of art – how is it established and when is it talent versus celebrity? The chicken and the egg thing or the Emperor’s New Clothes, either way,a mystery that boils down to what the market will bear.

With just enough technical information regarding the processes required to create an effective reproduction or, more importantly, a convincing forgery – the story weaves clever innocence with selfishly profitable and ego-feeding intents. It includes petty jealousies and fiercely loyal friendships which provide a believable combination to embody Claire’s world.

In the end, without giving anything away, as an interior designer and more specifically, a gallery owner representing the varied talents of a variety of media, my enjoyment of the story and ultimate amusement for placing value and awarding varying degrees of talent was satisfied. The nod to the OTC (Over the Couch) acronym that derogatorily describes art purchased for the express purpose of matching one’s decor was spot on! And I even gave a talk once entitled “I Want to Buy a Painting to Match My Red Sofa” as a valid niche for some. There is an endless  equation of context, timing, association, validity, originality, creativity, exposure, personality, and marketing. Which leaves me thinking, once again, about the base question – What is art? That too could join the classic bumper stickers  “What is reality?” and “Why be normal?” Hmmm…..something else to ponder…

And next I intend to immerse myself in what I expect to be my Valentine’s present tomorrow – A red likeno other - book A Red Like No Other – but unless I am on a roll, it might take me a while.


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