Wild Story of A Forger who Donates his Forgeries

 Randy Kennedy has a super article (following an earlier report in the Art Newspaper) discussing a man named Mark Landis who forges works of art and donates the forgeries to art museums all over America. He may have been doing this for as many as twenty years.

His real name is Mark A. Landis, and he is a lifelong painter and former gallery owner. But when he paid a visit to the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, La., last September, he seemed more like a character sprung from a Southern Gothic novel.

He arrived in a big red Cadillac and introduced himself as Father Arthur Scott. Mark Tullos Jr., the museum’s director, remembers that he was dressed “in black slacks, a black jacket, a black shirt with the clerical collar and he was wearing a Jesuit pin on his lapel.” Partly because he was a man of the cloth and partly because he was bearing a generous gift — a small painting by the American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran, which he said he wanted to donate in memory of his mother, a Lafayette native — it was difficult not to take him at his word, Mr. Tullos said.

That is a pretty remarkable thing to do, even in the art trade. The lesson is clear though, we can certainly blame the forger/donor, but provenance and the history of an object must be checked, even when an object is donated. 

  1. Randy Kennedy, Elusive Forger, Giving but Never Stealing, N.Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2011).
  2. Helen Stoilas, “Jesuit priest” donates fraudulent works, The Art Newspaper (Nov. 2010).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Wild Story of A Forger who Donates his Forgeries”

  1. Wild indeed! Just read the article on NYTimes and thought to myself, “Wow, what a creative, eccentric man.” He’s so talented and yet has no interest in plying his abilities for profit. Do you think he does this out of some self-gratifying tendency, or to benefit the museum/the public? It’s an odd case, for sure, and the part that sticks out to me is that he’s not actually a criminal.

    Thanks for posting this to your readers, Derek!

    Nicholas Merkelson
    Culture in Peril
    Twitter @cultureinperil

  2. In Italy, he *would* be considered a criminal. It is against the law to forge. In the case of art works, one may make perfect copies even for sale (with the permission of the current copyright owners, of course), as long as the art work is clearly identified as a copy.

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