kottke.org posts about Mark Landis

Forging art like no one is buyingNov 18 2011

Since the late 1980s, Mark Landis has been donating forged paintings he's painted to a number of museums around the country. No one really knew why...until John Gapper from The Financial Times tracked him down.

For nearly three decades, Landis has visited museums across the US in various guises and tried to donate paintings he has forged. As well as Father Scott, he has posed as "Steven Gardiner" among other aliases. He never asks for money, although museums have often hosted meals for him and made small gifts. His only stipulation is that he is donating in his parents' names -- often his actual father, Lieutenant Commander Arthur Landis Jr, a former US Navy officer.

Landis has been prolific and amazingly persistent. A few weeks before he came to Lafayette, "Father Scott" arrived at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, with a forgery of Head of a Sioux by Alfred Jacob Miller that he said he was giving in memory of his mother, "Helen Mitchell Scott". Landis has so far offered copies of that work to five other museums. Yet in all this time, although curators speculate about his motives, no one has found out why he is doing it.

Update: Landis is the subject of a documentary film called Art and Craft.

Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century Icons, Picasso, and even Walt Disney. And while the copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis isn't in it for money. Posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member's will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest, Landis has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States.

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