I received a copy of The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro for Christmas and just now finally getting to it! I admit I cheated on the book jar with this one—couldn’t wait on it any longer.
The Art Forger is inspired by the infamous heist of Boston’s Gardner Museum. On the night of March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as cops strolled into the museum, easily dispatched two guards, and in just over an hour stole thirteen paintings by the likes of Degas, Rembrant, Vermeer, and Manet. Nearly 25 years later, the heist still remains one of the world’s most notorious unsolved crimes, with no trace of the artworks—which are valued today around $500 million.
B. A. Shapiro’s novel, which follows three timelines, blends fact and fiction in re-imagining historical figures’ relationships and a chases a wild mystery surrounding the events of the Gardner heist. Claire Roth, a struggling Boston artist who found herself blacklisted in the art world after a scandal with her former professor/lover, makes her living painting copies of famous works for an online reproductions company. One day, the owner of chic gallery Markel G, Aiden Markel, approaches Claire with a clandestine offer she almost literally can’t refuse: make a copy of Degas’s After the Bath, stolen from the Gardner. He unveils the original for her to work from, and Claire, a self-proclaimed “Degas expert,” is eager to begin. Before long, though, Claire suspects this Degas is not what it seems.
I really enjoyed The Art Forger! It was an intriguing mystery and engaging story, and a bit of a love letter to Boston, even. I wish that Claire had been just a tiny bit smarter, especially with men… maybe a little less romance in the book would have made me love it even more (although I have admitted here before that I’m not much of one for romance in general). The techniques for art forgery were fascinating, and there were enough twists and turns in the novel to keep it moving at a good pace. I had no idea how it was going to end up—I was imagining several possible outcomes, and ultimately I was satisfied with the ending. In the afterward, Shapiro went over exactly what was fact and what was fiction in the book, which I appreciated. I would have had no idea about some of the relationships, personalities, and art history. No spoilers here; go read it!
Read from May 7 to 11, 2013.