Mark Landis, Untitled, in the style of Paul Signac
“I was soon to get into the habit of donating pictures to museums. Being treated so nicely by people was something I was unfamiliar with and I liked it very much.” Landis may be the most famous art counterfeiter who technically never committed a crime. The OKC Museum of Art was instrumental in publicly exposing his deceptions: for the past 30 years Landis, under a variety of aliases and identities, has donated works of art to museums and universities around the country. They’re all fake, painted by Landis himself, but since he’s not asking for anything in return he’s not in violation of any laws. He’s still out there somewhere, in fact. You’d need a microscope to see the telltale pattern of pixels that identifies the work as having a digital origin, but you can admire the quality of his craft in “Intent to Deceive.”
“In prison, they called me Picasso.” Myatt’s story, on the other hand, is more mundane – tempted into crime against his better judgment by the lure of financial gain and desire to provide better for his family than his honest career (he sold avowed “genuine fakes”) could. The unusual aspect is the scope of his partnership’s endeavor; Myatt forged over 200
John Myatt, “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” in the style of Johannes Vermeer
paintings and with his partner John Drewe did immense damage to the historical record. He confessed, helped convict Drewe, served some time and is now again producing fakes (clearly marked this time). His Picasso and Matisse impressions will hang alongside originals so guests can try to spot the telltale deviations.
“Only the experts are worth fooling. The greater the expert, the greater the satisfaction in deceiving him.” Hebborn has a classic “master criminal” narrative: he was genuinely great, he became obsessed with proving himself the best, he made a single mistake that proved his undoing. He trained at Britain’s Royal Academy but grew frustrated by his lack of professional success; when he discovered how well his affinity for restoration dovetailed to enhance his skills at creating fake vintage paintings, he began concentrating not on personal profit for its own sake but on deliberately fooling historical experts. And he was very good – his forgeries were practically undetectable – until a curator happened to notice two drawings attributed to different artists were on identical paper, and the experts he so derided tracked the paper back to Hebborn.
Curated by art fraud expert Colette Loll and organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, “Intent to Deceive” will be on view at the OKC Museum of Art through May 10. Check okcmoa.com for details and accompanying programming – no fooling. FEBRUARY 2015 // SLICE 83
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