Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Art and Craft

Mark Landis is good at copying things, a habit he developed as a only child. He also has a great knowledge of art which started when visiting European art galleries with his father (a US naval officer). The advertising for Art and Craft promises to explore the 30 year 'career' of one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. This is somewhat misleading as it only covers Mark's childhood and perhaps the last 5 years of his 'career'. Despite that, Art and Craft is an engrossing film about an old man with an unusual obsession.

What makes Mark Landis's forging unusual is that he doesn't do it for profit. He doesn't sell his art work. He donates it to art galleries (known as Art Museums in American English). He also doesn't claim the tax rebates that are available under the US tax system. Many of his works have hung in art museums undetected as forgeries for years. His activities have been brought to attention of the FBI, which doesn't see them as criminal. Some of the duped curators are strongly of the opposite opinion but Landis has never been charged or sued. Matthew Leininger in particular is obsessed with stopping Landis to the extent that it probably cost him his job. Other curators and art museums are just plain embarrassed that they have been duped.

Mark Landis is a reclusive man who also likes some of the aspects of fame. Remarkably the film makers gained access to his home, where he entertains them with quotes from movies, descriptions of his methods and memories of his mother. Indirectly and slowly the film does a good job at getting into the motivations behind his obsession. The film makers also got access to Matthew Leininger and the comparison of their obsessions is instructive.

My only complaint about the film is the hole in Mark's life between attending art collage in 1974 and his mother's death in 2010.

Ian's rating 3/5

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