nobody movie_When an art forger becomes an artist

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twelve years ago The art newspaper broke a story about a prolific – and somewhat eccentric – art forger who had placed his works in the collections of unsuspecting US museums and universities for decades. Mark Landis sometimes posed as a Jesuit priest, often using a false identity. He donated forgeries, which he had artistically drawn or painted over himself, to regional institutions across the country and passed them off as small but significant works by artists such as Picasso, Daumier and Signac. For years, his gifts were graciously accepted, and Landis enjoyed the attention and thanks he received from curators and directors.

According to The art newspaper His story ran, including international newspapers New York Timesthat financial times and the Guardian pursued, and Landis’ decades-long plan was uncovered. But since all of his forgeries were donated to museums, Landis was never charged with a crime. A documentary from 2014, Arts and crafts, revealed Landis’ history of mental illness and his motivations for the fraud, which were based on a need for authorization rather than malicious intent. (The filmmakers are now collecting footage for a possible sequel.)

Since then, Landis has reformed somewhat. Today he primarily creates original works and accepts commissions for family and pet portraits. He still makes copies or ironic iterations of famous works, but he adds a personal touch, such as a signature little red devil perched on the subject’s shoulder. His self-portraits are particularly popular, showing that Landis has a keen eye for detail and a great deal of technical skill. An exhibition of his work, curated by Sabrina Wirth, can now be seen in New York at Luxuny Atelier until the end of April. “The main focus in curating this exhibition was my interest in exploring what the rules are in art?” says Wirth. “Where are the limits? How far can you push it? There are so many examples of appropriation artists who have become very famous and have been able to make a living from their own art.”

Artist Mark Landis and curator Sabrina Wirth Photo by Luis Enrique Rivera Cuyar

The art newspaper spoke to Landis about his experiences since his fakes came to light and being recognized as an artist in his own right today. Alternately self-deprecating and wry, charming and mischievous, Landis is mostly obsessed with television and movies, which he watches while at work. Landis is a character that is easy to sympathize with. Below, edited for length and clarity, is our interview with the artist.

The Art Newspaper: How were the years in between for you?

Mark Landis: It was like something out of a Hollywood movie. And if they went out with a happy ending, because oh dear, I might just become a real artist, which never really crossed my mind.

You went to art school but didn’t really fit in?

I wanted to be a commercial artist and go to one of those schools to work for Hallmark. But you see, my mother had…

Higher demands?

Yes. There was a socially prominent lady in Jackson, Mississippi at that time. Her name was Myra Greene. And her pictures were in the Jackson Museum. And mother gave in to her. And this lady took an interest in me. Mrs. Greene told my mother to go to the Chicago Art Institute because it was prestigious. So that’s where I went.

A lot of good artists came out of it – Jeff Koons…

The school had no practical use. They didn’t really teach you. That was in the early 1970s. Things were just irresponsible back then, I think. They would just say, “All right. Look, I don’t want you to slavishly copy this. I want you to interpret it,” and stuff like that. And I thought, “Well, I really should learn how to make something.”

Portraits of George Washington in various styles by Mark Landis Photo by Luis Enrique Rivera Cuyar

Actually, I wanted to take up filmmaking. And I took lessons from Stan Brakhage, who’s famous. Well, you know what I mean when I say famous. There are books about him and such. And they put us in groups with a Super 8 camera and told us to make a film. I wanted to make a film about the life of Saint Lawrence. but [Brakhage] do not want it. and [the other students] I ended up doing some weird… You know what college films are [are like]. Something nobody understands and something, well, like his films. There were just like those creepy old men smoking cigarettes. I used to think I could end up like this.

Do you think things would have been different for you if you had gone to this trade school?

Probably not because I had too many other character flaws. I worked at an animation studio for almost two weeks and just left because it was boring and soul crushing. And I don’t have any staying power, so I couldn’t have applied.

You’ve always said that you don’t see yourself as an artist. Do you still feel this way?

I feel more like a crook than an artist. Sabrina told me I was a performance artist.

You’re very self-deprecating about your own work, but you’re clearly very skilled.

I used to be better. Everyone will tell you that [who] knew me as a teenager. I was something of a prodigy, but I didn’t do it that long. I couldn’t draw your portrait right now. I couldn’t sit down with a piece of paper and draw your portrait.

I worked really hard on this portrait of these two girls sitting on a bench for this lady in San Francisco. I was 25. It lasted almost a few months. It was pretty big. it was 18 [inches] through something. Lo and behold, it was a good picture. Everyone liked it. It could even still be in her mansion. [But] This lady stiffened me. And I’ve worked so hard. I got this beautiful card and I thought, “I bet there’s a big check in here.” And all it was was a beautiful card.

So if I could have one quote to remember, it would be: “It’s better not to get paid for something that took a few hours than not to get paid for something that took a few weeks or a few weeks.” has a few months.” That’s my philosophy of life.

In some of these original works you have certain motifs, like these little devils on your shoulders.

Sabrina wanted me [to add those]. I’m good at taking direction. It was Sabrina’s idea. She said she liked the devil idea. So she just said “Put some devils in everything” I did, except she said she doesn’t remember. She said I actually did.

Works by Mark Landis inspired by Leonardo, Balthus and Botero

Like in Savior of the world. Sabrina said she wanted to [him holding] a clock. And I didn’t like the idea of ​​a clock. So I just said, “How about a snow globe? Is that ok?” So I set up a snow globe. There is one happy Santa Claus [in there], but I didn’t want to overdo it. It’s unobtrusive. You really have to look.

And I didn’t know this artist. A lot of people think I know a lot, but it’s really selective because I pick everything from catalogues. So many [fake] things i gave [away], it’s just an accident. That’s because I had the catalogs and they were small and easy to create. It wasn’t because I liked anything in particular. Because it was convenient.

And you took a lot of self-portraits.

I have indeed. The title for [this one] is All foxes must go to the fur shop. You remember them Broken Fairy Tales? Someone took this photo. And I was out there and I squinted in the sun. And I was like, “Hey, I look like an old fox.” But some of the others I made myself and squinted a little more.

Self-portraits by Mark Landis on display at Luxuny Atelier Photo by Luis Enrique Rivera Cuyar

I sell many of them. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but no one who buys these is likely to read it or look at it or anything. They are meant to be limited [editions], but I usually just let it run and put some numbers in there. And I can never remember what I did [put down]…

Not so limited edition. How many copies do you think you made of it?

A lot. But we mostly sell the ones that are inside The cookbook. I sent one to the filmmakers because it has Mom’s recipes in it.

You said you started donating these works to museums…

to impress my mother. And then she always liked it when we got nice letters from bishops and archbishops. And we got some nice ones.

You have a lot on the wall here.

Oh yes? Oh my goodness. I haven’t seen some things for a long time. I’m painting in this dark bedroom and natural light makes such a difference. I remember when we were collecting some of this stuff to send away and we were taking it to the parking lot and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I wish I could or had time to work on it.” It’s like a magic trick. But once you know the trick, you’re like, “Oh, how could anyone… It’s that simple.”

Do you think you would like a large collection of Mark Landis artwork to end up somewhere someday?

It would be fine with me and it would boost my low self-esteem. That’s what brought me here.

Self-portraits by Mark Landis on display at Luxuny Atelier Photo by Luis Enrique Rivera Cuyar

  • Exhibition by Mark Landis, until the end of April, at Luxurious studioNew York.

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