Meet “Father Philanthropy”: America’s Most Prolific and Unlikely Master Art Forger

Close your eyes and pic­ture a phil­an­thropist.

Like­ly you envi­sioned a fat cat with a design­er check­book. It’s the accept­ed image, but not every bene­fac­tor fits the mold.

Take Mark Lan­dis, a gen­tle soul who’s spent three decades sur­pris­ing the staffs of small Amer­i­can muse­ums with art­work pre­sent­ed out of the blue. Not just any art­work, and cer­tain­ly not the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry orig­i­nals they were rep­re­sent­ed as—in every case, donor Lan­dis was even­tu­al­ly revealed to be the artist.

In Ter­ri Time­ly’s doc­u­men­tary glimpse, “Father Phil­an­thropy” (above, with a delet­ed scene below), Lan­dis oblig­ing­ly guides view­ers through the mul­ti-step process by which his forg­eries are cre­at­ed, but he reveals lit­tle about his moti­va­tion, beyond a desire to hon­or the mem­o­ry of his par­ents (Moth­er looms large here.)

His fakes don’t add up to a grand con­cep­tu­al piece, a la artist  J. S. G. Bog­gs’ incred­i­bly detailed, far-more-valu­able-than-the-items-they-were-used-to-pur­chase ban­knotes. He seems indif­fer­ent to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of high pro­file, if ill got­ten, pres­tige. He is, quite sim­ply a giv­er. His gifts cost the recip­i­ents pro­fes­sion­al pride and unex­pect­ed fees asso­ci­at­ed with fer­ret­ing out the truth, but they seem mal­ice-free. “About all I’ve got is an abil­i­ty to draw and paint,” he states, “So nat­u­ral­ly it led me to give away draw­ing and paint­ings.”

via The Atlantic

Relat­ed Con­tent

Art for the One Per­cent: 60 Min­utes on the Excess & Hubris of the Inter­na­tion­al Art Mar­ket

Art Lovers Rejoice! New Goya and Rem­brandt Data­bas­es Now Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day keeps things real @ayunhalliday

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