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February 3, 2011

Financial Times Reporter Interviews Benevolent Forger

Financial Times' columnist John Grapper
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In case you missed this interview by the Financial Times' chief business commentator, we're giving you the link here to "The forger's story" (January 21, 2011). John Gapper writes about Mark Landis who dressed up as a priest to donate paintings to art institutions.
"For nearly three decades, Landis has visited ­museums across the US in various guises and tried to donate paintings he has forged. As well as Father Scott, he has posed as “Steven Gardiner” among other aliases. He never asks for money, although museums have often hosted meals for him and made small gifts. His only stipulation is that he is donating in his parents’ names – often his actual father, ­Lieutenant Commander Arthur Landis Jr, a former US Navy officer.

Landis has been prolific and amazingly persistent. A few weeks before he came to Lafayette, “Father Scott” arrived at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, with a ­forgery of Head of a Sioux by Alfred Jacob Miller that he said he was giving in memory of his mother, “Helen Mitchell Scott”. Landis has so far offered copies of that work to five other museums. Yet in all this time, although curators speculate about his motives, no one has found out why he is doing it."
There's a paragraph mentioning the The New York Times that I read as a competitive -- and well-earned -- jab:
"The New York Times reported recently that Landis “seems to have disappeared altogether”, but it did not take long to locate him. After I had visited the Lauren Rogers museum, I drove the few blocks over to the apartment where his mother had lived, in a gated community for the elderly called Sugar Hill Resort."
John Gapper reports on why the forger sat down with him and talked about his family and his motivations. Fascinating story -- Mr. Gapper made me feel as if I too was meeting with the forger in an intimate talk. On his blog, Mr. Gapper continues with information he obtained after the interview with forger Mark Landis about where he purchased some of his materials. No, I won't be a spoiler, you have to go to Mr. Gapper's blog here, it's his story.

Photo: John Gapper.