The strange forgeries of Mark Augustus Landis

The strange forgeries of Mark Augustus LandisMr. Landis is a prolific art forger.Sometimes he dresses like a priest.
He approaches museums and donates artwork, which turns out to be a forgery. So why hasn’t he been arrested?

The difficulty is that, however annoying and disruptive Landis’s activities may be for museums, he does not seem to have broken the law. "The criminal statute [of fraud] says there must be a loss and that’s the problem. There hasn’t been a loss to any victim," says Robert Wittman, an investigator who used to run the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

Even some of his targets admire Landis’s ­abilities. "I think the fact that someone can produce all of these different styles is pretty phenomenal," says Gray. Others say that his genius is not as a painter but as a con man. "If you examine them with a ­critical eye, it’s over," says Jill Chancey, curator of the Lauren Rogers Museum in Laurel, Mississippi, "The forgeries aren’t masterful but the con is ­persuasive. The con is good…"

As we drove, Landis mused about having been discovered. "I like people to think of me as an art dealer and philanthropist, but I guess I get to be a dishonourable schoolboy," he said wryly.

The forger’s story, The Financial Times>>

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