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Get Art! Get Duped! Get Even!A rollicking ride through the Indian art world! An insider's look at a sophisticated ring for art forgeries, of suave perpetrators no one suspects, and one woman on a mission to unmask them all.
Summary Tara Malhotra, an NRI professional from Washington DC, has come to live in Mumbai. Despite reverse culture shock, she embraces swish Mumbai life with gusto and turns from an art collector to gallery owner. Tara buys a painting by legendary artist Amrita Sher-gil from charismatic dealer Roy Jordan. Thena critic doubts the authenticity of Tara’s trophy art, and Tara finds her finances drained, her marriage crumbling and her reputation as a gallery owner at stake. She must expose the ring of forgery, tracking the rogue dealers, fake artists and framers across India, to regain control of her life.
I enter the polished dark wood and glass interiors of Amaya in London’s Knightsbridge, barely registering the hushed glamour of the discreet chandeliers and the press of its hip crowd. Still in a daze, with Gul propping my elbow for support, I walk towards the table where Apurva Mehta is waiting for us.
Gul’s friend, Apurva, art advisor to galleries and independent curators, and specialist in South Asian art, rises grimly to greet us. There is a stern pity on her face. One look at her and all the arguments that have been burbling in my head for the past week die, unarticulated. An enlargement of a photograph of the Amrita Sher-Gil painting I have purchased lies on the table; no doubt from the picture I have scanned and emailed Gul. Read more
‘I...uh...have…the authentication certifcate somewhere at home…’ I blurt without preamble, forgetting all niceties. Gul lays a warm palm on my arm. ‘Hear her out rst, Tara.’
‘The style, the style is totally Sher-Gil,’ I protest. ‘The intensecolours, this midnight blue, this red…’
Apurva shakes her coiffed head. ‘Of course, I should see the actual painting rst, but it’s just that several elements seem all wrong to me. Look at the central gure, for instance...’
Ah. The Woman in Red! I steal a glance at the enlarged print of my treasured purchase, the trophy item in my collection of contemporary Indian art, an untitled painting by the Indo-Hungarian legend, Amrita Sher-Gil! At once strong and poignant – a slight gure draped in red robes looking with intense eyes straight at the viewer; utterly alone in the market crowd around her.
I identify with her completely.
‘She’s a typical Sher-Gil. What about her?’ I have grown obsessed with Sher-Gil’s life before buying the painting. Tales of her amboyant and troubled youth have appealed to me as much as the long lean silhouettes, the elongated limbs and the open-eyed candour of the brooding gures she painted.
Apurva takes a moment to sip her Scotch. ‘Exactly. This style is reminiscent of Amrita Sher-Gil’s early phase in India. Doesn’t it remind you of the gures in The Bride’s Toilette or The Brahmacharis or even Hill Women?’
I nod furiously.
‘Now look at the backdrop,’ Apurva continues. ‘The detail of the market scene is typical of her later period, when she became inuenced by the miniature style, and her gures became less prominent. These thick black outlines – Sher-Gil did not use them. The painting is really a clever juxtaposition of different elements from her work, with some add-on bits.’
‘It could be an intermediate phase…’ I try again. ‘And the nd was so well publicized. A huge Amrita Sher-Gil found in a derelict haveli in a small town in North India, that sold forcrores...’
Apurva says, ‘Wasn’t the hue and cry about another, bigger canvas?’
‘Yes,’ my voices curves upward, appalled by how unreal I sound. ‘Mine was found in the same haveli, just weeks after.’ Apurva is kindly. ‘I will give you the names of some friends in India who can evaluate the painting for you. I strongly suggest you meet them.’
My heart sinks at this point and I fall back into the thickly cushioned chair.
And my mind goes back to where it all began.
A socialite thriller with diamond-dripping and Birkin-bearing ladies
A cross between chick-lit and crime thriller
A perfectly enjoyable read that focuses completely around Indian art
A fast-paced thriller in the dizzying backdrop of Indian art; the engrossing crime tale is deceptively woven around a frantic chase for trophy art
Set mostly in urban India, the fast-paced entertainer is a reverse-migration story. It gives an insider's view of the art world and takes you through the world of elusive artistes, gallery owners, art auctions and explores art writing and criticism in true settings.
All about art and crime in high-end society. The drab world of brushes and strokes springs to life, mainly because of the energy levels of the now-confused-now-determined protagonist Tara
Written in a fluid yet literary language, it is about the scintillating, almost-glass world of the Mumbai elite and the glitterati. At a more macro level, it is a commentary on fast-changing India and about the multiple realities in our lives
The racy tale tracks down a fake Amrita Sher-Gil painting, with exciting traps laid out for the leading character, a diamond-dripping lady of leisure
Art Historians/ Writers
- Known art forgers and dealers of forged art
- Giovanni Bastianini, Italian forger of renaissance sculptures
- William Blundell, Forged Australian painters
- Yves Chaudron, France - forged Mona Lisa
- Zhang Daqian, forged Chinese art
- AlceoDossena, Italian sculptor
- John Drewe sold the work of John Myatt
- Shaun Greenhalgh, British forger
- Guy Hain, forged Rodin bronzes
- Eric Hebborn, British-born forger of old masters
- Elmyr de Hory, Hungarian-born painter of Picassos
- Geert Jan Jansen, Dutch painter KarelAppel recognized one of Jansen's forgeries as his own work.
- Tom Keating, British forger
- FernandLegros, purveyor of forged art
- Han van Meegeren, Dutchman who painted Vermeers
- John Myatt, British painter, created forgeries for John Drewe
- Ely Sakhai, who sold Gauguin's Vase de Fleurs twice
- Jean-Pierre Schecroun forged Picasso
- Emile Schuffenecker, French forger with Otto Wacker
- The Spanish Forger, French forger of medieval miniatures
- David Stein, US art dealer and painter
- Tony Tetro, prolific US forger
- Eduardo de Valfierno, art dealer who worked with forger Yves Chaudron
- Otto Wacker, German purveyor of fake Van Gogh's
- Kenneth Walton, prosecuted for selling forged paintings on eBay
- Earl M[arshawn] Washington, forger of p rints that he attributed to a grandfather, allegedly named “E[arl] M[ack] Washington”.
Blog (Madly Malabar)
You’ve got to love Tara Malhotra. She’s fun, she’s feisty, she’s opinionated. She is also a DCBA, a Desi Clueless Back from America. And, yes, she is suffering from extreme reverse culture shock. This is her e-diary.
Posted on Sunday May 29, 2011The dainty young lassie gives an affected wave with her skinny hands, exhales a mini-sigh of uber-chicness and in the poshest of posh accents, says, 'It's like, you know, such a drag!'
Posted on Friday April 08, 2011Just a delicate weave of the web, darlings, the connectedness and interconnectedness of folks, just an everyday moment of linking people, muttering through the who's who lists, mapping the dots and dashes...
Posted on Friday April 08, 2011The clue's in the color... from corporate czars to media honchos, everyone's seeking the success mantra in those that don blue. Valiant attempts at linking run getting to deadline management, avid fielding to stopping outflows from corporate coffers, and on and on... from starry eyed giggles of the gals to the fusty hot air squiggles by the lads. That's where all the clues lie, in the color blue.