Forger never takes money, only wants to see his works hanging in galleries

The NYT has the bizarre story of American art forger Mark A Landis, who creates convincing art forgeries and then donates them to galleries, refusing all compensation. Seemingly, he does it for the thrill of seeing his work hung as an original, alongside the real deal. Landis occasionally impersonates a priest named Father Scott or an art collector named Steven Gardiner, and when he makes his donations, he accompanies them with a story about honoring fictional dead relatives, his family's collection and hints about future cash donations.
"It's the most bizarre thing I've ever come across," said Matthew Leininger, the director of museum services at the Cincinnati Art Museum, who first met Mr. Landis in 2007 when Mr. Leininger was the registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and Mr. Landis offered to donate several works under his own name.

In the years since, Mr. Leininger has appointed himself as a kind of Javert to Mr. Landis's Valjean. He maintains a database of all known contacts with Mr. Landis, sightings of him and works he has copied. (He tends to favor lesser-known artists but occasionally tries his hand at a Picasso, a Watteau or a Daumier.) Mr. Leininger circulates by e-mail a picture taken of Mr. Landis in 2008 by the Louisiana State University Museum of Art, and he uses a dry-erase marker to update a laminated map in his office.

Elusive Forger, Giving but Never Stealing (via Super Punch)

(Image: Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum)


    1. Why do you love this guy? There is no reason to do this other than to embarrass people and diminish our cultural heritage.

      I thought we already had a word for people who put in a lot of effort for the sole purpose of irritating people: troll.

  1. I kinda feel bad for this guy now that he’s getting called out on it and having his picture circulated. I mean, this is obviously something he enjoys quite a bit and he must be pretty good at it if his stuff’s been accepted as genuine and hung by museums and galleries. And he’s not trying to get any money out of it, just to get his stuff in galleries.

    If I curated a museum that had taken one of his paintings, I’d continue to show his work next to the actual artists’, but with proper credit given — I’m sure it’d be a draw for people who had heard the story.

  2. He doesn’t need to get paid for the art, he makes all the money he needs already. (I mean, he literally makes it- he has a counterfeiting operation on the side.)

  3. But even forgery can be art. After Orson Welles’ “F for Fake” psycho-doc, I hear that confirmed Elmyr deHeury fakes are worth as much as many “real” artists. Whatever “real artist” means, I think it is a similar term to “real art” — a redundancy.

  4. “She said, ‘what is “historicity”?’

    ‘When a thing has history in it. Listen. One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn’t. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing …. You can’t tell which is which. There’s no “mystical plasmic presence”, no “aura” around it.”

    PK Dick, “The Man in the High Castle”

  5. This is straight out of The Recognitions by William Gaddis.

    “Wyatt Gwyon forges not out of larceny but out of love.”

    Now watch out for Recktall Brown.

  6. On the other hand, if he had just walked into the museum and said “I have this beautiful painting, and I thought you might like to have it.” without making any claims about its provenance, would there be any controversy?

Comments are closed.