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Painter Goes to Extremes to Have His Forged Artwork Hang in Museums. But Is It Criminal?

Via the PrawfsBlawg, I found this interesting article by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times about a man named Marc Landis. According to the article, Landis, a lifelong painter and former gallery owner, has gone to great lengths -- including dressing up like a priest -- to donate pieces of important artwork from his collection to U.S. museums. It turns out, however, that Landis is no priest and the pieces of art he is donating are forgeries.

In September 2010, for example, Kennedy writes that Landis visited the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, La. He introduced himself as Father Arthur Scott, and 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.” He offered to donate a painting by the American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran "in memory of his mother."

This was just one of many such donation efforts by Landis, now known as "one of the most prolific forgers American museums have encountered in years." According to Matthew Leininger, the director of museum services at the Cincinnati Art Museum who now maintains a database on all known contacts, sightings and forgeries by Landis, Landis typically forges lesser-known artists but occasionally attempts a "Picasso, a Watteau or a Daumier." Many of Landis' donated forged paintings have been accepted by museums and displayed as authentic.

One interesting question raised by Kennedy's Times article and by the PrawfsBlawg post is whether Landis' alleged conduct violates any laws. As noted in the article, Landis does not appear to have benefited financially at all, even turning down tax write-off forms. PrawfsBlawg asked its readers if they see any criminal liability such as "criminal mischief" in these facts, particularly assuming Landis has received nothing at all.  What do you think?

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 29, 2011 at 01:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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