Drewe, with a number of aliases from John Cockett to Mr Carnall, is
debonair, intelligent and well-spoken; he is also a formidable
confidence man. While amazed by his ability not only to keep several
steps ahead of the art establishment but also to keep so many balls
in the air at the same time, I often found myself regretting that he
did not turn his skills towards something positive and constructive,
something on the right side of the law. His much greater-than-average
intellectual capacity, his intimidating memory, his verbal aptitude
and his magnetic personality propel him into a line of activity where
he is motivated not so much by the prospect of monitory gain but more
by the personal satisfaction of having set out to fool people and
the way, his activities impact extremely negatively on many people,
both friends and strangers. For him, people are simply a means to an
end, and he does not seem to mind losing friends or ruining people's
lives. He is completely focused on himself.
those impacted are his art forger, John Myatt (who initially is not
aware of what Drewe is doing with the paintings), his wife, Batsheva
Goudsmid (who probably loses more than any one else) and his
childhood friend Daniel Stoakes. Art dealers, art galleries, even a
Roman Catholic monastic order, are all caught up in Drewe's web
before, thanks to a couple of sceptics and a couple of persistent
detectives, it begins to unravel.
the end of the book the following question is posed: what is it that
makes an artwork a valuable work of art? Should the forger's
impeccable paintings be regarded as 'works of art' or does the fact
that they are copies negate that possibility? When we read of
Michelangelo forging several artworks and Picasso signing a work
painted by someone else, we probably have to admit that, like most
things today, the value of a work of art is dictated purely and
simply by commercial interests.
would be nice to think that Drewe was snubbing his nose at an art
world where money has taken precedence over motive and inspiration;
however, I doubt very much that Drewe was motivated by such high
aspirations. For him it was just a game.
thrilling, sad and, at times, frustrating, Provenance leaves
us with many disparate thoughts and ideas.