Two terrific documentaries this year that question, whether they intend to or not, authenticity in art. This is one of them.
Art and Craft: http://artandcraftfilm.com/
Just saw Art and Craft last night. It follows Mark Landis as he spree donates forgeries into the collections of regional museums around the country. The New Yorker published a good feature on him last August if you haven't had a chance to see the film yet but want to know more:
Though the film is sympathetic to him, it still comes down on the side of defining what he does as forgery. I think that's a mistake.
His "forgeries" are constructed out of craft store paper and paints, ball point pens, felt markers, Home Depot plywood, glue, enlarged photocopies and coffee stains.
The most telling moment in the film to me is a point during which he is making the Picasso blue-period portrait (pictured above), which he has done by blowing up a museum catalog photo of the painting, using wood glue to stick it to a wooden panel, painted right on top of it to get thick paint textures, then covering over the whole thing with transparent thick glue and etching into it with a sharp object to get the palette knife scrapes he thinks he sees in the catalog photo.
Talking about what he is doing as he etches scrapes into the dried glue, he says something like:
"Who knows how he painted this? With the knife, just scraping it on? I don't know how he did it."
a pause, and then with really subtle contemptuous glee:
"They don't either."
"They" are the museum professionals he tricks into adding his pranks to their collections.
Watching him make that Picasso I thought the techniques were inspired ways to make a realistic prop, or a cheap textured copy, but they wouldn't stand up to even the slightest half-hearted scrutiny.
There is even a scene later in which a gallerist and a museum registrar inspect that same piece under a blacklight and can clearly see the portions of the photocopy that haven't been painted over. The registrar looks at another piece under a magnifying glass and can see the print dots from the reproduction.
That's what Landis is doing. He's not forging artwork. He's exposing incompetence. He's pranking. He does it with impish joy and he takes nothing from anyone but their illusions. He donates all his pieces, partly as a tactic to put the museums off guard, but also to avoid criminal liability. He has never taken a cent for any of these pieces, not in payment and not in charitable tax deductions.
He just does it. For fun. To meet people he wouldn't otherwise meet. To be treated nicely. And to laugh inside at the ease with which experts fall.
He's not a forger, he's a trickster.