All the talk about suspicious works and questionable artistic renderings in the last issue started an avalanche of feedback. One of the stories we caught pointed to a man whose practice of forgery has landed him notoriety on the big screen.
The tale of Mark Landis, a native of Laurel, Miss., was captured on film and premiered at this April’s TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City. “Art and Craft” follows the slippery Mr. Landis as he meticulously recreates works by notable artists, some Old Masters, and then pawns the works off on museums. Donning several identities – sometimes himself, sometimes as fictitious Jesuit Fr. Arthur Scott, other times as equally fake collector Steven Gardiner – his pattern is that he donates the works to museums, complete with proper parework but refuses compensation, including tax write-off forms. Apparently, it’s the thrill of fooling them that counts for Landis.
While the museums don’t pay him, they often lose funds when they pay for inspections and verifications, legal advice and analysis of their collection to see if other Landis forgeries exist. His first successful donation was given to the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1987. He’s called on roughly 40 museums since then.
Landis came by his artistic interests honestly. His mother, Jonita Joyce Brantley, was a longtime arts patron of the museum in Laurel. Landis himself once owned a gallery in San Francisco before returning to the Southeast.
The FBI has been working in concert with a few institutions to see if any laws may have been broken. The feeling is he could be held responsible for theft of goods and services.
Shady artistic motivations are apparently in ample supply near the Gulf Coast. Is it something in the water down here?