Ken Perenyi spent almost 30 years making a small fortune out of forging works by popular 18th- and 19th-century artists, including Martin Johnson Heade, Gilbert Stuart, and Charles Bird King — until the FBI came knocking in 1998.
Having realized they had caught on to his meticulous forgery business, Perenyi lived for the next few years under the watchful eye of the U.S. government, who kept tabs on him, as well as where his works were being sold. They also spoke with friends and associates, reports The New York Times.
While they never ended up charging him, the FBI’s close watch caused Perenyi to change the way he did business. Now, instead of pushing his paintings as real, the notorious forger openly sells his faked oils as reproductions in what he calls “a new business model.”
Newser reports that Ken Perenyi’s upcoming memoir, Caveat Emptor: the Secret Life of an American Art Forger, will talk about his exploits, which allowed him to hang out with the jet setting crowd, while earning the ire of art experts and mob enforcers.
He has also gone from earning $700,000 for a piece to a mere $5,000, and the known buyers he sells to are required to sign a form confirming the piece is a forgery. Perenyi stated, “I miss the addictive thrill of fooling the experts. It was great sport for me.”
Gallerist NY also notes that, while the art forger claims to have sold works at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, they both deny the claim. From the memoir, Pereny stated:
“I’m convinced that if these artists were alive today, they would thank me,” he said. “I’m somebody that understands and appreciates their work.”
While standing over the reproduction of a Herrings painting, Ken Perenyi commented, “I don’t wish to flatter myself…but I’m sure Herring himself would be proud to put his name on this painting.”