New art world thrillers to read

New art world thrillers to read

Such concerns have long been the subject of fiction, but three new literary thrillers explore authenticity through the prism, or rather the canvases, of the art world, examining what constitutes an artist, what determines the value of art, which controls our access to it. and, perhaps more importantly, who should make those decisions.

Joe Mungo Reed “Hammer” has a lot to say about the role that art plays in the world at large. The auction house where Martin works is at the center of London’s opulent and unforgiving upscale scene, a stark contrast to the hippie complex where he grew up. At an event, he bumps into Marina, a wealthy Russian beauty he hasn’t seen since they were in college nine years earlier. At the time, she was dating Martin’s roommate; now she is married to Oleg Gorelov, an ostentatious émigré oligarch and art collector. Martin uses his past with Marina to insinuate himself into Oleg’s orbit, earn his trust, and a trip to the freeport of Geneva, where Oleg keeps his most prized pieces, including a painting by the artist before – Ukrainian guard Kazimir Malevich who was thought to be lost.

Appearances are essential in this world, but they are not something that wealth can necessarily change. Oleg worries about how he acquired his fortune and what kind of legacy he will leave behind in Russia. Marina was disgusted by her parents’ wealth growing up, and her affair represents a way to reclaim some of those earlier feelings about wealth. And Martin revels in the good things his career has brought him, but begins to question the cost of the values ​​he grew up on.

The novel gains dismal topicality thanks to a belated plot involving Ukrainian independence and Vladimir Putin’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, but Reed handles these issues sensitively while steadily unraveling the increasingly disparate life. of his characters in a complex look at politics, morality and the acceptance of one’s own feelings. pass.

by Erica Katz “False” is less concerned with geopolitics, but the stakes are just as high for New Yorker Emma Caan, 20, who is trying to get her life back on track, professionally and socially. When she was an art student at Yale, Emma’s paintings were labeled “Technically superior. Emotionally detached. So, instead of becoming a famous artist, she lives off her paycheck by copying priceless works of art for a company hired by collectors and museums who need to exhibit fakes for usually legitimate reasons.

Longtime client and Russian billionaire Leonard Sobetsky hires Emma to copy paintings for him privately – at $10,000 a pop – and lands her a job at an avant-garde gallery. He even installs it in a SoHo loft 10 times larger than his studio in Washington Heights. Next thing she knows, Emma’s solo parties scrolling Instagram while eating instant ramen are a thing of the past as she flies to Hong Kong on Lenny’s private plane and parties with the influencer @JustJules.

Readers know things aren’t going so well as each chapter opens with FBI agents questioning Emma about Lenny. The signs are there for her too, but she’s too seduced by having it all, besides trying to deal with her pyrophobia, which induces panic blackouts and causes night terrors. The source of the trauma becomes apparent early on, but Emma continues to attack it as if it were the Enigma code. Despite some melodramatic, “Fake” is a lot of fun, offering a glimpse into a glittery world most of us will never catch a glimpse of firsthand.

by Maria Gainza “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead, takes a more philosophical look at the art world by questioning what constitutes an artist. The titular portrait is figurative; our narrator, a disillusioned art critic in Buenos Aires under the pen name María Lydis, investigates a mysterious character. María urges caution with her story, not because she is dishonest, but because memory and art are subjective and imperfect. “We don’t reclaim the past, we recreate it.”

The past that María attempts to recreate concerns Argentina’s most notorious forger, the “beautiful and enigmatic” Renée. In the 1960s, Renée was part of a boho crime ring based in an uptown hotel that made a living by “cheating the rich”. In the 1990s, she grew cacti and produced only original artwork, but lived alone in misery. Then she just disappeared. María first learns of Renée’s exploits from her patroness, Enriqueta Macedo, a revered art authenticator who for decades has been validating forgeries, including those painted by Renée years ago. Now 70, Enriqueta calls on María to succeed her, and the young woman embraces her life of crime, finding both adventure and security.

Enriqueta’s death causes María to reconsider, however, and she launches her career as a critic, only to be thrust back into her unsavory past by the appearance of a collection of works by Mariette Lydis, a painter with close ties to Renée. Bunstead’s colorful translation sometimes reads like a series of adventures, sometimes like harsh noir, and throughout it all, María uses her wit, scholarship, and daring to understand the true meaning of the art.

Cory Oldweiler’s writing has appeared in the Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Boston Globe.