front cover of The Great Art Hoax
The Great Art Hoax
Essays in the Comedy and Insanity of Collectible Art
Jon Huer
University of Wisconsin Press, 1990
The Great Art Hoax exposes the real fakery and hypocrisy of the art world: how art is manufactured and marketed; how the pathology of private possession drives up the price; and how false art is hyped as true art to the tune of millions of dollars. Jon Huer demonstrates convincingly that what the art market deals as art need not be “art” at all.
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A Nation of Counterfeiters
Stephen Mihm
Harvard University Press, 2007

Listen to a short interview with Stephen MihmHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

Few of us question the slips of green paper that come and go in our purses, pockets, and wallets. Yet confidence in the money supply is a recent phenomenon: prior to the Civil War, the United States did not have a single, national currency. Instead, countless banks issued paper money in a bewildering variety of denominations and designs--more than ten thousand different kinds by 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, putting vast quantities of bogus bills into circulation.

Their success, Stephen Mihm reveals, is more than an entertaining tale of criminal enterprise: it is the story of the rise of a country defined by a freewheeling brand of capitalism over which the federal government exercised little control. It was an era when responsibility for the country's currency remained in the hands of capitalists for whom "making money" was as much a literal as a figurative undertaking.

Mihm's witty tale brims with colorful characters: shady bankers, corrupt cops, charismatic criminals, and brilliant engravers. Based on prodigious research, it ranges far and wide, from New York City's criminal underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil War. We learn how the federal government issued greenbacks for the first time and began dismantling the older monetary system and the counterfeit economy it sustained.

A Nation of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing work of history, one that casts the country's capitalist roots in a startling new light. Readers will recognize the same get-rich-quick spirit that lives on in the speculative bubbles and confidence games of the twenty-first century.

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A Real Van Gogh
How the Art World Struggles with Truth
Henk Tromp
Amsterdam University Press, 2010

In 1928, after eleven years of extensive research and editing, Dr. Jacob Baart de la Faille finally finished the first catalogue raisonné of Vincent van Gogh’s work. Soon after, however, de la Faille discovered that he had mistakenly listed dozens of forged works as genuine in the catalog. He quickly set out to set the record straight but was met with strong resistance from art dealers, collectors, critics, politicians, amongst others—all of whom had self-interested reasons to oppose his corrections.

            
To this day, the international art world struggles to separate the real Van Goghs from the fake. A Real Van Gogh begins with the story of de la Faille and moves into the late decades of the twentieth century, outlining the numerous clashes over the authenticity of Van Gogh’s works while simultaneously exposing the often bewildering ramifications for art critics and scholars when they bring unwelcome news.

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Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History
Ademar of Chabannes, 989–1034
Richard Landes
Harvard University Press, 1995

This unusual biographical work traces the life and career of Ademar of Chabannes, a monk, historian, liturgist, and hagiographer who lived at the turn of the first Christian millennium. Thanks to the unique collection of over one thousand folios of autograph manuscript that Ademar left behind, Richard Landes has been able to reconstruct in great detail the development of Ademar's career and the events of his day, and to suggest several major revisions in the general picture held by current medieval historiography.

Above all, the author's research confirms and elaborates the realization (first articulated over sixty years ago by the historian Louis Saltet) that in 1029 Ademar suffered a humiliating defeat at the height of his career and spent his final five years feverishly producing a dossier of forgeries and fictions about his own contemporaries that has few parallels in the annals on medieval forgery. Not only did that dossier of forgeries succeed in misleading historians from the twelfth century right up to the twentieth, but few historians have been willing to explore the implications of so striking a revision in Ademar's biography. Richard Landes is the first to systematically examine the evidence and the implications for our understanding of the period, and he offers an explanation of how these remarkable developments might have occurred.

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