Review – Con/Artist: The Life and Times of the World’s Greatest Art Forger

Posted December 7, 2022 by Carole in Reviews / 10 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review – Con/Artist: The Life and Times of the World’s Greatest Art ForgerCon/Artist: The Life and Times of the World's Greatest Art Forger by Tony Tetro, Giampiero Ambrosi
Narrator: Richard Ferrone, Tony Tetro, Giampiero Ambrosi
Published by Hachette Audio, Hachette Book Group on November 22, 2022
Genres: Biography & Autobiography / Criminals & Outlaws
Length: 8 hours 29 minutes
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Source: Publisher, Purchased
Amazon | Audible | B&N | Kobo |

The world’s most renowned art forger reveals the secrets behind his decades of painting like the masters—exposing an art world that is far more corrupt than we ever knew while providing an art history lesson wrapped in sex, drugs, and Caravaggio.

The art world is a much dirtier, nastier business than you might expect. Tony Tetro, one of the most renowned art forgers in history, will make you question every masterpiece you’ve ever seen in a museum, gallery, or private collection. Tetro’s “Rembrandts,” “Caravaggios,” “Miros,” and hundreds of other works now hang on walls around the globe. In 2019, it was revealed that Prince Charles received into his collection a Picasso, Dali, Monet, and Chagall, insuring them for over 200 million pounds, only to later discover that they’re actually “Tetros.” And the kicker? In Tony’s words: “Even if some tycoon finds out his Rembrandt is a fake, what’s he going to do, turn it in? Now his Rembrandt just became motel art. Better to keep quiet and pass it on to the next guy. It’s the way things work for guys like me.” The Prince Charles scandal is the subject of a forthcoming feature documentary with Academy Award nominee Kief Davidson and coauthor Giampiero Ambrosi, in cooperation with Tetro.

Throughout Tetro’s career, his inimitable talent has been coupled with a reckless penchant for drugs, fast cars, and sleeping with other con artists. He was busted in 1989 and spent four years in court and one in prison. His voice—rough, wry, deeply authentic—is nothing like the high society he swanned around in, driving his Lamborghini or Ferrari, hobnobbing with aristocrats by day, and diving into debauchery when the lights went out. He’s a former furniture store clerk who can walk around in Caravaggio’s shoes, become Picasso or Monet, with an encyclopedic understanding of their paint, their canvases, their vision. For years, he hid it all in an unassuming California townhouse with a secret art room behind a full-length mirror. (Press #* on his phone and the mirror pops open.) Pairing up with coauthor Ambrosi, one of the investigative journalists who uncovered the 2019 scandal, Tetro unveils the art world in an epic, alluring, at times unbelievable, but all-true narrative.

This was incredibly interesting! I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but every once in a while I come across a book that calls to me and I feel compelled to pick it up. I have no idea why I was drawn to this book since I don’t really pay attention to art but I am so glad that I decided to give it a try. I was captivated by Tony Tetro’s story and didn’t want to stop reading once I started.

If you had asked me what an art forger does before picking up this book, my answer would have been very different than it is now that I have read it. It is not just the process of copying art. I learned that provenance is even more important than the actual art being made. Mr. Tetro went to a lot of work establishing provenance for his pieces which is one reason he was so successful. It was very eye-opening to learn what went into making a piece look older than it really was. I was surprised that I was able to relate to Mr. Tetro because I too tend to almost obsess over problems until I figure out a solution. I guess it is a good thing that the things I am usually trying to figure out are much tamer than those Mr. Tetro dealt with.

I listened to the audiobook and thought that the narration was very well done. Richard Ferrone handled the bulk of the narration and I thought that he helped bring the book to life. I really felt like I was right there listening to Mr. Tetro tell me exactly how he did what he did for so many years. I thought that the narrators had very pleasant voices which added to my overall enjoyment of the story.

I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this was a very interesting and sometimes thought-provoking look at a crime that I never really considered before. There were a few times in the book when I felt like the author’s point of view was somewhat biased. I will definitely look at art a little differently after reading this book.

I received a review copy of this book from Hachette Books and purchased a copy of the audiobook.

10 responses to “Review – Con/Artist: The Life and Times of the World’s Greatest Art Forger

  1. I don’t read much nonfiction either, but one of my goals next year is to read more. I enjoy reading about artists, so this sounds amazing. I’m adding it to my list for a next year read! Thanks.

  2. I don’t read much non-fiction either, but I’d like to read more. This does sound really interesting. I’ve visited a lot of famous art museums. I wonder if they ever carried his forgeries if Prince Charles had a few. I’ll look into this one.

  3. This sounds absolutely fascinating! Art theft and forgery are high up on my list of things that I find fascinating and I haven’t read this one. I just added it to my TBR and good to know that the audio is a good option.