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New York Times Notable author María Gainza, who dazzled critics with Optic Nerve, returns with the captivating story of an auction house employee on the trail of an enigmatic master forger
New York Times notable author María Gainza, who dazzled critics with 'Optic Nerve,' returns with the captivating story of an auction house employee on the trail of an enigmatic master forger. Photo: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

‘Portrait of an Unknown Lady’ : Maria Gainza's latest novel, published in English

Argentinian writer Maria Garza follows up her debut, 'Optic Nerve,' with a story of forgery in the Buenos Aires art world.

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Argentinian writer Maria Garza follows up her debut, Optic Nerve, with the captivating story of an auction house employee on the trail of an enigmatic master forger.

In the Buenos Aires art world, a master forger has achieved legendary status. Rumored to be a woman, she specializes in canvases by the painter Mariette Lydis, a portraitist of Argentinean high society. But who is this absurdly gifted creator of counterfeits? What motivates her? And what is her link to the community of artists who congregate, night after night, in a strange establishment called the Hotel Melancólico? 

Originally published in Spanish in 2018, Portrait of an Unknown Lady is the latest novel of Argentinian writer and New York Times bestselling author Maria Gainza. Driven by obsession and full of subtle surprises, the book  is a highly seductive and enveloping meditation on what we mean by “authenticity” in art, and a captivating exploration of the gap between what is lived and what is told.

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The novel stars an art critic and auction house employee whose hands have transacted with the counterfeit work. As she begins to take on the role of art-world detective, adopting her own methods of deception and manipulation, she warns “not to proceed in expectation of names, numbers or dates."

"My techniques are those of the impressionist,” she continues 

“Like Bolaño, she writes stories within stories, each with its own melancholy mood and unsolvable mystery,” wrote literary critic Johanna Thomas-Corr for The Guardian. 

About the author

Maria Gainza ©ANAGRAMA/Rosana Schoijett.
Maria Gainza  © Rosana Schoijett / Anagrama

Born in Buenos Aires, María Gainza  worked as a correspondent for The New York Times and ArtNews from Buenos Aires. For more than 10 years, she was a regular contributor to Artforum magazine and the Radar supplement of Página/12 newspaper.  In 2011, she published Textos elegidos, a selection of her notes and essays on Argentine art. Optic Nerve, her first foray into narrative, has been translated into 10 languages and was enthusiastically received by critics.

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