Book Review: The Art Forger


I was housesitting a few weeks ago and the person whose home I was in left me this book with a note that said, “It starts out slow but it picks up and ended up being a good read.”

Starting the book about a month ago, I just finished it the other night. It did start out slow, and it did pick up its pace about midway through the book. In the end, despite its flaws, I found myself liking it in a sheepish way, in the way I like some of Dan Brown’s lesser known book titles.

The hard part for me to overcome in reading it was actually something that is probably only unique to me. There was a mention of a work said to be by the main character’s professor/boyfriend, called 4D. As the book was going on and on about this painting, and the thought process behind it, I found myself getting angry. Had this writer been to my web site and read about my latest work? It took me a while to get over that and continue on with the fictional story of Claire Roth, artist and art forger.

While B.A Shapiro does a fine job of writing about the process of painting, the politics of trying to make it in the art world, and noting how easy it is to misstep – that is to say, she did her homework – she also created an unbelievable fiction around an actual art heist. One that happened at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where, in 1990, two men dressed as police officers bound and gagged two guards and stole thirteen pieces of art, including Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Vermeer’s The Concert, and works by Degas and Manet from the collection.

I say unbelievable, but I mean that in a good way. When it comes to writing about art or the art world or artists, nothing is more frustrating to me than believable fiction.

We are taken through a journey, mostly through Claire’s head, but also through flashbacks. The book is mostly her voicing her observations, thinking about how others see her, and wondering what life would be like if she finally made it. After royally screwing up with the folks at MoMA, or was it The Whitney?, she becomes blacklisted and is delegated to the back rows of the art world – she makes her living copying the work of other artists and has become somewhat of an expert on Degas. The story gets interesting when an art dealer brings her just that, a Degas, to make a copy for him. One that will be authenticated as the original …

The Art Forger is a good romp, but not something I’d recommend you run out and buy, but if you see it laying around you might want to pick it up. Or put it on your list for your next rainy day or beach read.

Networking Between Tech And Art

Jackson Pollack at

In the past, I have thought of making a business out of bringing together techies and artists, for the purpose of meet and greet, collaboration, and to educate both groups as to why they should consider themselves to be the new Renaissance and support the arts and each other. I was hoping it would have been a function of artist-at-large to create these meetups in the Bay Area, but they haven’t yet came to be. At least not yet.

I have one foot in both worlds, the world of fine art where my work is and the world of tech where my day jobs have been, so I wanted to design a program specifically to bring techies and artists together, with art studio visits and informal gatherings and artist and techie talks. This discussion came up on facebook today and someone mentioned that there is a local group of artists that meetup, but that outsiders never come. Well, if you just have an artists’ Meetup, there is no way the techies would even think that it was something they would want to go to. You see, you didn’t specifically invite them, or, even give them a reason to show up. Hey, come see my work, is not a reason for them to break away from their code. Even the most informal of schedules is more inviting to them than an open ended seemingly chaotic event. Open studios? No way. A meet and greet in the studio with food and cocktails for a half hour, a half hour “lecture” or talk about the artist’s work, and then a half-hour schmooze between the folks in attendance, is much more inviting.

Also, you have to consider that most tech people are heads down into programming code and most have never taken an art appreciation course or even an art history course in their lives. Many do not understand genres, other than ones such as anime/manga, because most tech people – that I know – are very literal. And the ones who do have a little art history under their belt, still don’t get the idea that throughout history the greatest creative renaissances came out of the wealthy supporting the creative work of the artists that work around them. Most average tech people don’t see themselves as wealthy, and cannot grasp the fact that *they* are the ones that should be buying art and supporting culture in their communities. Other than drug dealers, they are the ones around town with bank.

Yes, I am presenting the very far fringes of the situation, but it is not that far from the center of the problem.

The other side of the problem is that artists for the most part don’t know how to network with tech people. They don’t know how to target. Most artists will throw out a public invitation, not even sure if the people they want to reach have seen it or know about the event.

So how to bring these two groups together?

I’d love to hear comments from both sides of the fence on this – from artists, and from techies.

What Is Culture?

The other day, someone asked via twitter “What is culture?” It was asked in the context of travel, in the sub-context of cultural travel.

artist-at-large is all about cultural travel, but even though I can define culture for myself and how I travel, and in terms of this site, the question has had me thinking about the definition of culture, specifically how Americans today think of culture. How deep do they go when they travel for cultural reasons?

The etymology of the modern term “culture” has a classical origin. In English, the word “culture” is based on a term used by Cicero in his ‘Tusculan Disputations’, where he wrote of a cultivation of the soul or “cultura animi”, thereby using an agricultural metaphor to describe the development of a philosophical soul, which was understood teleologically (they involve aiming at goals) as the one natural highest possible ideal for human development. Samuel Pufendorf took over this metaphor in a modern context, meaning something similar, but no longer assuming that philosophy is man’s natural perfection. His use, and that of many writers after him “refers to all the ways in which human beings overcome their original barbarism, and through artifice, become fully human” — Wikipedia

The idea of culture is complex and both broad and simplistic at the same time. It can be defined by one unifying and defining detail of a group – such as language, or diet, or even the landscape where the group resides. Or it can be broad in the sense that it is a common characteristic of all of humanity.

In the sense of cultural travel though, the idea is traveling to really experience the culture of a place – food, language, art, archaeology, history, education, community – not only how people in a certain place live in that moment, but how they have evolved or devolved over time, how they got to where they are.

What does culture, or cultural travel, mean to you?

Out Of The Archives:
Five Reasons To Visit Paris


Paris has changed quite a bit in the twenty-five years that I’ve been visiting her. She is becoming more of a global city, influenced not only by current events, but by the different cultures that have come to live within her periphique. If you have any kind of desire to go to Paris, just get on a plane right now and go! But if you are hedging between visiting Paris and any other city on the planet, here are my reasons to make the City of Light your top pick.

Un: Energy. Inspiration. Innovation. Abandon. Le vivre. The pursuit of enlightenment, French style. Not things to be seen, but rather a feeling that swims in the air. Paris is one of those places that just grabs you, hugs you, and gives you long slow kisses, sensually, without being too obvious about it, all before you even realize it. The French people on the other hand are a little more reserved, but they warm up. Nothing that a few words of practiced French won’t cure. Paris also has the nerve to make you think. She will inspire you and teach you, even if you aren’t expecting it. But if you are an artist at a loss for your next project, there’s nothing like a trip to Paris to get the inspirational wheels turning again.

Deux: Gastronomie! The food and drink in Paris really are fabulous. Whether you are eating sandwiches and quiches out of the boulangeries everyday or splurging on restaurants, a taste of France is not to be missed. Eating a true Parisian baguette with a slice of generic French brie alone is worth the airfare, let alone all the other wonders of the French palette – from crêpes to bouillabaisse. The lovely way that eggs taste like chicken and both always taste remarkably fresh is divine and not to be missed. Cheeses to be experienced that faintly hint of the grasses that the sheep and cows eat in the field. Freshly pressed olive oils that enliven a plate of greens. You may no longer be able to find that inexpensive wine on the shelf, but the French reds are some of the best you will taste. And don’t forget the champagne!

Paris is truly a melting pot not only of French gastronomic culture, blending all of the cuisines of the provinces of France in one city, but also of world cuisine, and the recipes of her many multicultural inhabitants.

Trois: You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t at least a little bit interested in art, architecture and artists. Paris has an excellent collection of all three. The city itself is a walking history museum and even if you didn’t step foot in a building, you couldn’t help but be inspired by what is out on the streets.

There are wonderful museums like the beautiful d’Orsay displaying floors of Impressionist work, the labyrinthine maze of Le Louvre where Winged Victory and Michelangelo’s Slaves live, the mind-boggling Pompidou with its displays of contemporary art and culture, the unicorn tapestries of the Cluny and the art of Picasso at the museum named after him.

The galleries of Rue du Seine in the 6th arrondissement and the Marais in the 3rd, hold everything from antique lawn sculptures to the work of world class artists.

The artists’ ateliers are open during Les Portes Ouvertes which happen at various times of the year, primarily in the neighborhoods of Belleville and Oberkampf but also in the Bastille.

The architecture of the first gothic cathedral in Europe, Saint-Denis, with its tombs of Kings and Royal Families, as well as the gargoyles of Notre-Dame, the mysteries of Saint-Sulpice and many of the other cathedrals in the city are preserved in their original forms. The term gothic tends to bring dark, somber, stormy night, visuals to mind, but gothic is really all about light and the opening up of space to let the light of God shine in or the rays of enlightenment bathe you into perfection – this particular style of architecture is all about contemplation.

The windows of L’Insitute du Monde Arabe also bring new light onto the subjects of Islam and Arab culture. The window shades are controlled by solar power and open and close according to how much direct sunlight they are getting, maintaining the light level inside to the same level throughout the day. The shades themselves create geometric patterns that form as the shades open and close.

Graffiti is an art form in Paris and good, artistic graffiti and wall murals, although not in the least encouraged in their making, are an accepted form of expression in some neighborhoods.

The flea markets, shops, and whole neighborhoods hold antiques and wonders to pilfer through to find that one special thing that will serve as a souvenir of your visit.

You will find no other city with a list of art and creative venues like Paris. The city is a living museum, with remnants from Lutetia Parisorium to La Revolution, to whatever happened in history yesterday discussed in your local cafe.

Quatre: From Paris there is a wonderful selection of daytrips outside the city – from Giverny to Auvers, Auvers to Fontainebleau, Fontainebleau to Versailles and back again. See the residence of Monet, the grave of Van Gogh, the country residences and gardens of Napolean and Louis XVI. And what about taking the train an hour out of town to Chartres, Beauvais, Amiens or Reims to see the cathedrals, a hike in the forest of Chantilly, or off to Epernay to taste a bit of champagne?

Cinque: Passing time in a cafe and people watching. What could be more Parisian than this? The neighborhood cafes are the living rooms and meeting places of the Parisians. Cafes are where they make new friends and keep old friendships alive. It’s where the neighborhood gossip gets stirred. And for a traveler, whether you are interested in watching the latest fashion walk by, sipping a Pernod, a bierre, a glass of vin rouge, savoring a cafe au lait, reading le quotidien, or just relaxing and resting your weary feet on la terasse, cafe life in Paris is life at its best.

Bon Voyage!

Can you think of another reason to visit Paris?