FAUX Real: On the Trail of an Art Forger Part 1

When I’m thinking about remarkable registrar’s stories one story immediately comes to my mind: The story of the art forger Mark Landis. Registrar Matthew C. Leininger discovered his forgery and tries to keep track on him ever since. I’m really happy that he agreed to contribute his story. We will do this as a follow-up real life detective story, so stay tuned! You can watch some of the forgeries that were done by Landis in this youtube video. Landis is still around doing his forgery, so you will always find his picture and known aliases in every story. It’s our goal to keep museum people around the world informed about this art forger and how he acts. If you recognize him: inform Matt Leininger about it. Thanks! – Angela

What I am about to share with you is the insight of my personal encounters with what the New York Times has called ‘the most prolific art forger of our time’.
I was a registrar and department head at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2008 when this all began.

picture: LSU University Art Museum

Mark Landis
Also known Aliases:
2009 – Steven Gardiner
2010 – Father Arthur Scott
2011 – Father James Brantley
2012 – Mark Lanois

Registrars are the true caretakers of collections and overtime their experience becomes second nature when reviewing collections, especially when they come from a donor that seems obscure. August 7, 2008 my due diligence and discerning eye paid off in a way that I could not even fathom when I uncovered Mark Augustus Landis of Laurel, Mississippi. Landis earlier in 2008 had gifted a water color ‘by’ Louis Valtat to OKC. We were so excited about this rare work that without doing any research we matted, framed and installed the work in our gallery. We were not only excited about this gift, but the promised gift of more art work and money for an endowment that Landis told us about. This was in May of 2008 when we received the Valtat. July of 2008 Landis arrived at the museum during one of the most difficult installations the museum had taken on. I was called to drop everything I was doing and cater Landis along with the Chief Curator and Director. It was a grueling two and a half days to say the least. The staff considered Landis not only obscure, but there was something just not right about him, not a good feeling you know? We have him carte blanche in our store and fed him lunch, which he never ate. The chief curator took him to the airport for his return to Laurel (did I mention Landis paid his own airfare, hotels and meals?). Landis fell asleep at the gate and someone stole all his store goods! We had to return to the airport and help him rebook so he could make it home.
I mentioned August 7 and I remember it well. We were getting ready to take the five newly gifted works to our committee for accessioning. I did my research on the pieces and low and behold the Savannah College of Art and Design had received the same Paul Signac watercolor gifted from Landis around the same time he was in OKC. Then came an oil on panel by Stanislas Lepine. This piece showed up in a press release on the website at the St. Louis University Museum of Art. Hmm, yes gifted by Landis. I was onto something. I researched the remaining three and also found them in other collections throughout the United States. After tracking Landis movements over the last five years, I have uncovered well over one hundred forgeries gifted by Landis in twenty states and over fifty institutions… and I am the sole individual that found Landis and revealed his scam nationally and internationally.
This is just the beginning and I have only scratched the surface with this blog. I thank Angela Kipp for inviting me to participate and I hope you enjoy as I continue to share with you my dossier and the complete story on Mark Landis.

Stay tuned,

Matt

This text is also available in French translated by Kelsey Brow.

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4 comments

  1. elise brink says:

    If this forger “gifted” all these paintings, what did he get out of it?…. a free lunch and some museum store freebies? I am just confused by what I read, I guess.

    Thanks

    ______________________________

    Español:

    Si este falsificador “donó” todas estas obras, ¿qué le hizo salir de ellas? …. ¿un almuerzo gratis y algunos regalos de la tienda del museo? Estoy confundida por lo que he leído, supongo.

    ______________________________

    Deutsch:

    Wenn dieser Fälscher seine ganzen Fälschungen “geschenkt” hat, was hatte er davon?… Ein kostenloses Mittagessen und einige Werbegeschenke aus dem Museumsshop? Ich bin nur verwirrt von dem, was ich hier lese, vermute ich.
    Danke

    • Matthew Leininger says:

      There is much more to share on Landis. I am glad to see your reply and I can guarantee that after this blog has ended, you will no longer be confused but ask yourself, seriously… what was this forger really up to? -M

      ______________________________

      Español:

      Hay mucho más que decir sobre Landis. Me contenta ver tu comentario y puedo garantizar que luego de que esta historia haya terminado, ya no estarás confundida, pero pregúntate seriamente… ¿qué era lo que este falsificador estaba realmente tramando? -M

      ______________________________

      Deutsch:
      Es gibt noch wesentlich mehr zu Landis zu sagen. Ich bin froh, dass sie nachfragen und ich verspreche Ihnen, dass sie am Ende dieses Blogs nicht mehr verwirrt sein werden, sondern sich fragen werden, mal ehrlich… auf was war dieser Fälscher eigentlich aus?

    • Angela says:

      That’s exactly why I find this story so disturbing… and worth telling.
      Best,
      Angela

      ______________________________

      Español:

      UPDATE. Esa es exactamente la razón por la que esta historia me parece tan inquietante … y que vale la pena contarla.
      Saludos,
      Angela

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