When one of the most prolific art forgers in US history is finally exposed, he must confront the legacy of his 30-year con.
When I first saw the poster and the tagline for “Art and Craft”, I thought it was going to be a horror/thriller. The story of a con-artist who is finally revealed to the public, sounded like a good drama but as I sat down to finally view it, immediately I knew it was something completely different. The film chronicles the life and work of Mark Landis, a bipolar and schizophrenic man who has spent over 25 years donating faux pieces of art to many different museums throughout the U.S. including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Bostonian Society and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. He usually sought the smaller museums who generally did not have the means of analysis like the bigger ones.
At one point, the FBI Art Crime Team were even brought in but in the end, their hands were tied and they couldn’t prosecute Mr. Landis as he never asked for money in exchange for the museums assuming possession of his art work so technically, no crime was actually committed. Watching and listening to Mr. Landis speak, one can’t help but feel sympathy and empathy for him, a man whose entire life has been all about art, even if it is essentially, copying and pasting other more successful artists. Having lost his mother recently too also played a big part in his heartbroken and sorrowful demeanor, a man who keeps to himself and has no family or friends in his life.
Matthew Leininger, the Chief Registrar for the Cincinnati Art Museum, was the first person to closely analyze some of the work Mr. Landis donated to their museum and quickly realized that they were fake. Mr. Leininger made it his mission to somehow stop Mr. Landis from submitting fraudulent pieces of art to other museums but short of calling every institution in the entire country and forewarning them, his hands were basically tied. In the end, there was nothing anybody could legally do so what the Cincinnati Art Museum decided on, was to hold an exhibition of his work, to show the public just how easily they could be convinced of something’s authenticity when it was, in fact, fake.
Mr. Landis very apprehensively appeared and while there were some who informed him that they didn’t appreciate what he was doing, the majority of people said he was an amazing artist who should paint original works of art, instead of copying others. The film started out very intriguing and I had glimpses of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio from “Catch Me If You Can” in a game of cat and mouse but about halfway through, it became apparent that this movie wasn’t going to incorporate any fantastical car chases or character near-misses, it was simply a very straightforward tale about one man and his apparent affection for reproducing classic works of art and then giving them away with no reimbursement solicited. Recommended.
In select theaters including the Angelika Film Centers in Dallas & Plano October 17th