Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Everybody Needs a Hobby (UPDATED)

The NYT's Randy Kennedy has a great story today about a guy who's been going around donating fake works to museums:

"Unlike most forgers, he does not seem to be in it for the money, but for a kind of satisfaction at seeing his works accepted as authentic. He takes nothing more in return for them than an occasional lunch or a few tchotchkes from the gift shop. He turns down tax write-off forms, and it’s unclear whether he has broken any laws. But his activities have nonetheless cost museums, which have had to pay for analysis of the works, for research to figure out if more of his fakes are hiding in their collections and for legal advice."

At the moment, he seems to have disappeared:

"Robert K. Wittman, a former F.B.I. agent who ran the agency’s art-crime team, said that he has been working informally on behalf of several museums Mr. Landis visited to gather more information about his actions, with the aim of determining whether a legal case could be built against him for theft of goods and services. But Mr. Wittman has been unable to find him."

The last word is given to the director of the Hilliard University Art Museum: "I really doubt that there’s going to be any will or funding to pursue action against him, which is kind of sad. That’s just the reality. So our job now is to make sure that every museum out there knows what he looks like and what he’s up to."

UPDATE: Derek Fincham liked the story too, and says "the lesson is clear": "we can certainly blame the forger/donor, but provenance and the history of an object must be checked, even when an object is donated."