Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Genuine Fakes"

The New York Times has an interesting story this morning on John Myatt, who served time in a British prison a few years ago for his part in a well-known art forgery scam. (Michael Douglas reportedly has bought the rights to his story.) Beginning in the 1980's he produced more than 200 fake works by the likes of Klee, Chagall, and Giacometti, which were then sold (some for more than $150,000) by an accomplice, who ended up sentenced to six years in prison. He now exhibits and sells what he calls "Genuine Fakes," new works "in the style of famous artists with the words 'Genuine Fake' written in indelible ink on the back." (He has his own website here.) At a recent exhibition of his work in London, "he sold everything he displayed -- 68 fake Miros, Picassos, Giacomettis and the like -- at prices from $875 to more than $8,000." I should think he's eliminated any risk of a fraud or misattribution claim, but I'm not so sure he doesn't also have to worry about copyright. Many of the works he's copying are in the public domain, but others (e.g., Picasso, Warhol) are not.