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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Second Favorite Fake Priest

... is Father Arthur Scott, S.J. He is a curious little fellow, with large ears and poor attention span, who drives a cherry-red Cadillac and likes to donate rare works of art to museums. Donate, mind you -- at no cost, in memory of his beloved parents. The only catch is this: both Father Scott and the art are completely bogus.

His real name is Mark Augustus Landis, and he has spent years on what the Financial Times calls "the longest, strangest forgery spree the American art world has ever known."

The story, by John Gapper, is absolutely fascinating. Briefly, Landis is the well-educated son of a Navy officer, who wants to honor his parents by making donations in their name. He doesn't have the money to buy and then donate genuine works of art, so he fakes them instead. It seems likely that he suffers from some sort of impairment, whether psychological (schizophrenia, BPD) or neurological (Asperger's). And, obviously, he's got nimble fingers and a good eye.

The museum people, and the FBI, are angry about him, and would like him to stop. He's wasting their time and such money as they may choose to lavish on him, after all. The problem, from their perspective, is that the legal definition of fraud seems to require that he try to sell them something, which he doesn't.

We at the Egg feel that the curators and Special Agents are missing the point. Landis is an artist, and of the most exciting kind -- an outsider in the purest sense, a monomaniac possessed by a vision which he will spend his life trying to make real, and from which he cannot possibly be dissuaded. His medium isn't painting, exactly, so much as the place where painting and performance come together. Or memory and imagination, if you like. Even hope and ambition. That his vision has a classical Trickster element to it hardly separates him from other artists -- does anybody remember J. S. Boggs?

Frankly, we'd like to own a few pieces of Landis-art. And if we were a museum curator, and he offered us some, we would take it in a heartbeat, and buy or borrow as much more as we could get from our colleagues elsewhere. Then we'd mount an exhibition, publish a book, and make a name for ourselves. And for Landis. And for his parents. And for Father Scott.

As for our favorite fake priest, well, we'll get to him next.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if he read the novel "What's Bred in the Bone" by Robertson Davies . . .?

-- Anna

Father Anonymous said...

Great book! After college, my painter buddy and I were very nearly inspired by it to begin a life of crime. He's now a well-respected art restorer, which uses many of the same skills legally.

Anonymous said...

*looks around, whispers*

Can one ever be sure . . . ?

-- Anna

Father Anonymous said...

One doesn't ask.

LiturgyGeek said...

This guy sounds delightful. Fun at parties, at the very least.

Now I want to know who your favorite fake priest is!

Father Anonymous said...

Your wish is my command. He's up top.

LiturgyGeek said...

YAY!! Thank you!!! I dunno, I still like the fake artist.