Sequel Inspiration: Art Forger Ken Perenyi

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Photo by CBS News

The idea of writing a sequel for Ravenscraig was in the back of my mind for some time  before I found the right story to tell. I have the CBS Sunday Morning Show to thank for providing the inspiration for the story line for this new historical novel, which is yet to be named. In March of this year, CBS ran this fascinating story reported by Lee Cowan profiling master forger Ken Perenyi.

“I take pride in my work, and I think it speaks for itself. I would find it difficult to feel bad about creating beautiful paintings.”   

                                 –Ken Perenyi

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CBS did the story because Perenyi was attracting a lot of attention with his tell-all1930 memoire, Caveat Emptor in which he explains in great detail how he was able to create more than 1,000 fakes over thirty years. He made a ton of money, was never caught, and is continuing to paint today, although in a perfectly legitimate and legal business, selling his art as works painted in his hand in the style of a number of talented and famous artists. His website is filled with examples of the kinds of paintings he is happy to paint to order. How delicious is this story for inspiration? I immediately ordered Perenyi’s book and finished it in one day, totally inspired by the talent, the scandal, and the naughtiness of it all.

There are many critics, including art consultant and appraiser, Brenda Simonson-Mohle, who find Perenyi and his intent to profit from deception utterly despicable:

sa_logo_72dpi“I found myself cringing at every page turn. I find it appalling that Perenyi duped people for so many years with his fake paintings with no legal consequences and doubly insulting that this book is his venue to brag about it. While I had to read it, and feel like I had to report on it in this blog, my greatest wish would be that the book would flop, that it would be given no press coverage and that Perenyi would die in oblivion. It is not a likely scenario in our prurient culture that absorbs and celebrates such anti-heroes with more enthusiasm than we give to people who make real contributions to society. Perenyi will likely get the 15-minutes of fame that he seeks from publishing this book. The book’s afterward states that he continues to pump fake paintings into the marketplace from his Florida studio and that they are collected as reproductions or as “Perenyi-copies.” I get nauseated just thinking about it.”

I see why people who make their living in the art market would be horrified at the story, but as for me, frankly I find it fascinating that he got away with it. It turns out a great many artists have preceded Perenyi on this path.

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Click for Renoir mystery

Perenyi’s story led me to begin a most interesting line of study to gain an understanding of artists who traffic in fraud and other art crimes.

There are many wonderful scholarly works as well as documentaries, news articles and the works themselves to examine in this area, and I was immediately hooked. More than anything else, it is the personality type of the art forger that I find so intriguing.

The new novel I am writing deals with a very talented art forger in France in 1914 who enlists the help of a familiar Ravenscraig character to sell forged paintings to American millionaires.

Stay tuned for more news on the developing storyline!

About Sandi Krawchenko Altner

Author
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