Blog Posts

Forgery for Love, Not Money

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

Elusive Forger, Giving but Never Stealing
By Randy Kennedy
The New York Times
January 11, 2011

His real name is Mark A. Landis, and he is a lifelong painter and former gallery owner. But when he paid a visit to the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, La., last September, he seemed more like a character sprung from a Southern Gothic novel.

He arrived in a big red Cadillac and introduced himself as Father Arthur Scott. Mark Tullos Jr., the museum”™s director, remembers that he was dressed “in black slacks, a black jacket, a black shirt with the clerical collar and he was wearing a Jesuit pin on his lapel.” Partly because he was a man of the cloth and partly because he was bearing a generous gift “” a small painting by the American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran, which he said he wanted to donate in memory of his mother, a Lafayette native “” it was difficult not to take him at his word, Mr. Tullos said.

The painting, unframed and wrapped in cellophane, looked like the real thing, with a faded label on the verso from a long-defunct gallery in Manhattan. Father Scott offered to pay for a good frame and hinted that more paintings and perhaps some money might come the museum”™s way from his family. But when the Hilliard”™s director of development chatted with Father Scott about the church and his acquaintances in deeply Roman Catholic southern Louisiana, the man grew nervous. “He said, “˜Well, I travel a lot,”™ “ Mr. Tullos recalled. ” “˜I go and solve problems for the church.”™ “

Mr. Landis “” often under his own name, though more recently as Father Scott or as a collector named Steven Gardiner “” has indeed done a lot of traveling over the past two decades, but not for the church. He has been one of the most prolific forgers American museums have encountered in years, writing, calling and presenting himself at their doors, where he tells well-concocted stories about his family”™s collection and donates small, expertly faked works, sometimes in honor of nonexistent relatives. (more…)

Obama Forgeries Exposed

Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

Tom Tresh shows a series of fake Obama autographs sold on eBay and talks about how to recognize a phony.

LiteratEye #7: Faux Poe

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the seventh installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #7: Faux Poe
By W.J. Elvin III
March 27, 2009

Edgar Allan PoeThis year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe. If you keep track of these things, you’re no doubt amazed at the creative ways people find to connect to the master of the macabre. The calendar is cluttered with related events put on by institutions, communities and individuals nationwide.

Poe offers a goldmine of opportunities for those intrigued by literary fraud, hoaxes, mystifications and riddles. He left behind many puzzles to be solved, in his writing and in how he lived his brief life. For instance, he fought many back-and-forth battles over plagiarism, sometimes the accused and sometimes the accuser. On the other side of it, his fame made him a magnet for forgers, pranksters, satirists and others hitching a ride on his star.

In prowling old literary magazines, an avocation which no doubt fills endless hours of your leisure time, you can hardly help but notice how often others imitated Poe’s style. Digging into it, there is quite a bit of controversy over what he wrote or didn’t write, much of it unresolved. It’s confounding how many lesser lights tried to pass off their work as that of the master. And then there’s the on-going question of how many, if any, succeeded. (more…)