Hi everyone. I'm Mark Landis. I am one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. I've copied works by artists like Picasso and Walt Disney and, posing as a philanthropist (or sometimes an executor of a will or a Jesuit priest), donated them to institutions such as the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, and others.

There's a new documentary about me called ART AND CRAFT that comes out in theaters in New York starting Friday, before it opens in LA and more US cities in the weeks to come.

You can watch the trailer and learn more about me and the movie here: http://www.artandcraftfilm.com/

You can also read about me in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/arts/design/12fraud.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

My photo proof: http://imgur.com/XzrQz4K

Victoria from Reddit is helping me take some of your questions for a few hours. Ask me anything!

Update: I recommend the movie because if you like the Thomas Crowne affair, you will like this movie. Really! Because when I started watching it, I wanted to see what would happen! I was scared to watch it, but the composer Stephen made me watch it, he got me into the seats, and kind of made me watch it, and once i started watching it, I wanted to see what was going to happen! And I'd forgotten some of the people that were in it, you know, and so I guess I... yea. By all means, I heartily recommend it! It's a wise investment of your time. I'm glad I watched it.

Comments: 125 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

Sirocka27 karma

How much has some of your original artwork sold for? Have you ever had a fake sell for more than the original?

Mark_Landis30 karma

Well, actually, I'm virtually certain that none of them have been sold, and even if they had, it wouldn't be for anywhere near the original. Actually I just don't know. Now things I've done myself have gotten... that's bad english...things have sold for $500 or more. The Canton Museum got $800 for one? It sold? I mean, people buy things at an auction. It sold for $800.

rowmac8920 karma


Mark_Landis39 karma

The Mona Lisa. That's easy. Because I just did it. It took me a whole weekend.

GauntGhuol18 karma

Haha wow, I love that "a whole weekend" to replicate what is arguably the world's best-known masterpiece is a long time to you!

Mark_Landis24 karma

Well, it's like a magic trick you know. If I told people, it wouldn't be worth anything anymore.

beernerd19 karma

How did you discover you had a knack for art forgery?

Mark_Landis45 karma

I thrive on praise and encouragement. Well, actually, it's not something I thought about that much. Let's put it this way: I knew i had a knack, if you want to use that word - an aptitude for arts & crafts from when I was very little. I used to like to copy pictures from museum catalogues. I grew up in Europe, and there weren't TV sets back then, and mother and dad used to like to go out at night, so I would amuse myself by copying paintings from catalogues with pencils or crayons. Mother liked Madonnas or Christchilds. She didn't like martyrdoms so much, or battles. So I never really thought of it as an aptitude for forgery. I had an impulse to do a drawing and pass it off as a gift, from things i Had seen on TV or read about. So I hope - that's probably a little more than you asked. But anyway.

beernerd10 karma

No, that's fascinating. Thank you. Praise is certainly a powerful motivator, and clearly you were able to satisfy that desire through the reception of your work. Have you considered teaching some of your techniques to others? Fostering talent in others seems like it would give that same sort of vicarious satisfaction without the need for deception.

Mark_Landis18 karma

Well, I've never thought about teaching because I don't have a degree, in anything. I've got a special high school diploma, and that's it. So I guess the answer would be no. I wouldn't mind teaching now, you know, if the opportunity were to arise, teaching art, but it doesn't seem likely. But i do my best, anyway, although I doubt I would be qualified. I wouldn't know how to go about doing it. Even if somebody say, had a class all set and everything and said "okay we want you to teach these people how to draw and paint and this and that" i wouldn't know where to begin. so I couldn't, I don't think. And it's something I've never wanted to do either.

Frajer16 karma

What made you become a forger and how did you realize forgery was a skill you had ?

Mark_Landis50 karma

Oh, okay! Way back, I had an impulse, I guess, it was around 1985, I had an impulse to - I guess I was watching things on TV, and you know, I was always seeing things on TV or in movies or about philanthropists giving things, and of course when you're in a museum you see "Donated by" next to pictures - it was an impulse to give away a picture in Oakland while I was there on another business. And everybody was so nice to me, they treated me with so much deference and respect and friendship -they treated me like royalty. When I first found out I was in trouble, I was led to a Guardian article, and that's a UK paper, and it said I had been treated like royalty - I had never been treated like royalty before. I liked it so much, I got addicted, and that's how it all happened.

And what did royalty ever do to deserve to be treated like royalty, anyway?

GauntGhuol14 karma

Hi Mark, I've always wondered, is there any networking between forgers? Do/did you know others personally and dicuss your techniques or the market?

Mark_Landis28 karma

No. Haha! That was an easy one! No. Honestly I've never met another art forger. The answer is no.

And you know, not only that, but I bet if you looked into the matter you'd probably find that not too many art forgers knew each other - whereas now people that forge 1000 dollar bills, stuff like that, they usually get together when they go to the pen - they get together, that's different. But as far as art forgers go - course I'm just speculating.

But as far as I personally can say: no. I don't really know any artists. I do now but I didn't before.

geofurb13 karma

Can you describe the challenge that might be involved in forging a Jackson Pollock piece? Do you consider yourself (or anyone?) up to the task?

Mark_Landis20 karma

There would be no challenge at all, as long as you're just trying to get a superficial - I mean, to pass superficial inspection. Obviously there would be a challenge if you were worried about them checking the kind of paint he used and all that scientific stuff. But I never did any of that anyway. Does that answer the question? Okay. None at all. A 6 year old could do it, maybe a 3 year old. And everybody's heard for the last hundred-something years, mothers have been saying that about their kids, ever since the advent of modern art - "Gee, my kid could do that." It's an old answer.

Mark_Landis14 karma

I've never done a Jackson Pollock but it's obvious it would not be that difficult to do. I've done Milton Avery pieces.

geofurb3 karma

Is the texture/thickness of thrown paint easy to copy with a brush? I had assumed brushstrokes would be easy to discern from the actual work.

Mark_Landis13 karma

Yes, you would be right, I guess, about brushstrokes. I thought Jackson sort of squeezed paint onto the canvas and didn't use a brush. And as far as artists that use brushstrokes, it's something I never really gave much thought to. Experts supposedly can tell things like that, an expert is just someone who knows a great deal about something and sometimes he's right.

nuqqet9k11 karma

Where can I buy an "original" dickbutt?

Mark_Landis31 karma

I don't paint those, but whatever it is, if you submit it, I'll look into it.

_rogermexico10 karma

Who's your favorite painter and why are they your favorite?

Mark_Landis20 karma

That's a difficult question. It's like asking people what their favorite movie is, or favorite book.

I think I like Victorian painters best. As far as a particular Victorian painter - that would be pretty hard to do. But I could throw a name at you that is probably nobody's heard of that i like very much indeed: Fritz Zuber-Buhler. I doubt if too many people have heard of him - before you have the chance to look him up. I like him very much indeed. I like Victorians best.

hellriaserashish9 karma

I have read no forgery is perfect as the forger will try to put some sort of subliminal sign of his own to get accredited.Is this true ?

Mark_Landis18 karma

Well, not with me. You know, I wouldn't know about other people. I kind of doubt it with others. Ask a psychiatrist, but as far as I'm concerned, certainly not, haha! I'm not crazy, so no. Not with me, anyway.

Mark_Landis29 karma

Although you know, come to think about it, I noticed sometimes when I was copying pictures like of something, I would think "Well, you know...this would look a little better - I think I'll make her a little prettier." I may have done things like that. But it seems like anybody would do that. If I thought I could subtly improve it, yeah, I probably have done things like that. But I wouldn't be thinking to myself "Ah-ha! Those fools! I will leave an obvious clue." But yeah, I have prettied things up. I think it's something you can't help doing. Kind of like the way Mother would be if she saw something untidy or out of place -a lot of people's moms want to fix things up. You know what i mean.

Mark_Landis22 karma

And if you were doing a picture and you thought it was kind of ugly, assuming you had the prerequisite abilities, you'd want to pretty it up, wouldn't you? It seems like anybody would want to do that. I certainly do.

joedude209 karma

What is your opinion on the monetary value of art & the massive prices payed for some artworks?

Mark_Landis17 karma

What's my opinion? Gee... I hadn't really thought about it... I guess it's like any kind of commodity, or it's more like fashion or something, you know, it's very speculative... because pictures don't have an intrinsic value, really, so you know, it's determined by all kinds of things. I guess the best analogy would be the fashion world, you know, if somebody takes something up and then prices will rise and that sort of thing. That's the best I can do. I've never answered that one before! No one ever valued my opinion or asked me that. So that's the best I can do.

doctorish8 karma

Is there any artist that you have tried and failed to copy?

Mark_Landis18 karma

Oh, well, not really. But you see, that's because the choice was left up to me (except for the Mona Lisa, somebody told me to do that). But the other things - a good way to answer your question is when I chose artists to copy, obviously I liked easy artists to do. Easy ones, like the modern ones, the ones that look like they were done by 6 year olds. However if the museum doesn't collect that sort of thing, I might have to choose an artist that is more difficult to do, like a Victorian or Renaissance painter, somebody like that, you know.

CMack19788 karma

What's the first piece you ever successfully copied? (by successful I mean it passed as real)

Mark_Landis16 karma

Well, the first gift I made was 3 Maynard Dixon drawings of Indians. He was an early 20th century American artist, Western, Californian, that sort of thing. People may not be familiar with him. He was big in the 1980's. I remember - there was a big exhibition of his work at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in the 1980's, and that's what gave me the idea. And actually I didn't copy those - I went to the library and checked out some books with pictures of Indians, and drew those portraits, and just put "M.D." in the corner - so that wasn't really a forgery, just a copy. If you know what i mean.

dirtskydirtambulance7 karma

Being a master of your craft, has there ever been a moment in your life in which you've plotted to secretly replace an original artwork with your own as a sort of escape from the bounds of your usual activity that will test your skills?

Mark_Landis14 karma

You mean, like in some kind of movie, where people hide in a museum and put a copy in its place? No!

dirtskydirtambulance6 karma

Being someone with no artistic ability, I'd think it would be pretty cool to leave behind a mysterious heist legacy that with some effort could be solved and once solved reveal your greatest masterpiece!....just saying

Mark_Landis19 karma

Well, I'm sixty years old. And it sounds like something that when you were a teen-ager, if I was 16 instead of 60, I might think "gee that might be a cool thing to do." But i can't think that way anymore, you know. I think like a sixty-year old man now. It might very well be cool to a teen-ager, but that's the best I can do. It sounds like comic-book stuff, you know. Of course, in some ways I'm still kind of a kid, but it just isn't something that would occur to me. Now maybe when I was more like 12, I would have thought things like that were cool.

FloppyFlyer5 karma

Hi Mark. Did you go to school for art trading/restoration/maintenance with the intent of getting into forgery, or did forgery come along after you had learned those skills?

Mark_Landis17 karma

Probably, no, no, no and no. I did go to art school, but I went to the Chicago Art Institute and San Francisco Art institute, I never graduated, but I studied filmmaking and photography, I dropped filmmaking and focused on photography, and that was never of use to me, I just learned a lot of obsolete processes. I could probably use an old 8x10 camera, but that's of no practical use today. But as far as studying drawing and painting, no. I'm self-taught. I refuse to give those hippie schools credit for teaching me anything of much use at all. I'm sure they are much better now, but in the early 1970's, they were hippie schools.

Buscemi19905 karma

Who is the most difficult artist to forge?

Mark_Landis13 karma

Well, that's another one of those questions it's like - in my opinion, difficult artists to forge would be anybody Victorian, and academic, or Renaissance, people who painted meticulously and realistically and extravagantly. All kinds of adjectives like that. If you want some names, people like Fritz, maybe not him but DaVinci would be pretty hard, anybody pre-modern that was museum worthy, let's put it like that.

Maccas754 karma

Hi Mark! What work of yours are you most proud of?

Mark_Landis11 karma

Oh... Joan of Arc. That's one that I did, that is. As far as copies go, I don't know. I've sure given a lot of 'em away. I've even sold some. And I've got a couple. I... I do it all the time. Like an assembly line.

redchilliprod4 karma

Hi Mark, do you believe that forgery is the true art? Could you transfer your skills to copying from real-life images or photos?

Mark_Landis11 karma

As far as the other things, it's something I Never really thought of. Actually, I still don't really think of myself as much of an artist, you know? I'm not much of an artist, and I haven't got any great talent or anything, I do have a facility for arts & crafts, and the rest of it, I kind of lost track of it. I never thought of myself as really a "forger" either. As I said, it was an impulse and I got addicted to it. Everybody likes being treated like royalty, or having people treat them with deference and respect, that sort of thing. VIP treatment, that's it. Everybody wants to get treated like a VIP, don't they?

And I'm not designing this website, but it will allow people to send me their photos so I can paint them. http://marklandisoriginal.com

I will draw or paint anything, as long as it's not too big. The site is being developed by Collette Loll, a forgery expert, with the filmmakers of Art & Craft.

dragonfly19934 karma

what was the weirdest part of having a movie made about you?

Mark_Landis7 karma

Oh, well, there wasn't really anything...well, I guess it surprised me very much indue that anybody would have wanted to in the first place. So I guess that would be the best answer. I was amazed to have a couple of glamorous young NYC filmmakers want to make a movie about me, you know? It's something that would have never occurred to me. really!

So if that would be a definition of weird - it was totally unexpected. Never would have occurred to me. It still seems strange to me sometimes.

fluffsta0074 karma

Have you ever forged anything of Frida Kahlo?

Mark_Landis9 karma

No. Haha! That was an easy one.

procrastinating_ftw4 karma

What are some of your other Hobbys?

Mark_Landis13 karma

Oh! Well, if you want to call them hobbies, I spend most of my time... sigh... doing things a lot of lonely old shut-ins do. I watch a lot of TV, I read a lot, and I do them all at the same time. I listen to my satellite radio, I like radio classics, that's my favorite channel, old-time radio, that's it.

fatheroftheblade4 karma

Can you draw a picture of me?

Mark_Landis11 karma

Sure. I would be very happy to. They are setting up a website for me to coincide with the release of the movie, with examples of portraits i've done of people, because when I got into trouble, I got taken up by a lady, Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers Wyndham, in Laurel, MI, and she's very prominent in the area socially, anyway she took an interest in me, and they've been having me for the last couple years paint their grandchildren, children, and pets - I like to paint kittens, puppies, dogs, cats, and teenagers. so the answer to your question is: Yes, indeed.


It will be live in a few days.

highertellurian3 karma

Which legendary artwork was the easiest for you to replicate?

Mark_Landis8 karma

Well, I doubt if I ever did anything - until somebody told me to copy the Mona Lisa, I didn't copy anything that was legendary. I chose artists by the criteria - things that I've found easy to do that were quite valuable would be Picassos.

JaLubbs3 karma

When I hear art forger, I think Neil Caffrey. Have you ever been tempted to pawn off a painting to try to make an extra buck or is your career pretty lucrative within the law?

Mark_Landis7 karma

Well, I guess no. As I said, it was just an impulse, you know. I was managing - I had a nervous breakdown, oh, I don't know, when I was around 30, and after that I went to live with my mother and - anyways, that's a long story but I had enough of an income to manage on. Never used to having the lifestyles of the rich & famous. I guess the best answer is no. I liked being treated with so much respect and deference, and even friendship... being treated like Royalty, which I guess just about everybody does, right? So I guess it's understandable. That you get used to it, you know. Get addicted.

kaliforniamike3 karma

How do we know your picture of proof isn't forged?

Mark_Landis7 karma

Well, I guess you don't? I mean, you know, I suppose you could find out, if you wanted to go through the trouble.

beernerd2 karma

Have you seen The Thomas Crown Affair?

Mark_Landis8 karma

Yes I have. The GOOD one, anyway. I saw part of the other one, but the one I remember best would be the Faye Dunaway / Steve McQueen one right? We saw that on the SS United States coming over, on the ship back in 1968, I remember, it was one of the movies they showed on the ship. We saw that, and we saw the Heart is a Lonely Hunter... let me see, what else... the Disney movie about the elections... and then in the mornings they would show cartoons for the kids. I guess I should have just said "yes!"

17bravo2 karma

Do you ever have any legal problems by doing your job??

Do you have original paints by you??

Mark_Landis7 karma

Not so far... people have been mad at me, and a few years ago I did get scared and nervous, because some people were kind of upset, but I guess best answer is no, not yet.

And of course! Yes! We answered that one way back. The Joan of Arc one.

theaussiedrummer2 karma

What are your current relationships like with the art museums you donated paintings to?

Mark_Landis10 karma

That's an easy one. I don't have any. So there aren't any relationships. We haven't got a relationship. Haha!

sandeep181942 karma

Can you forge, the constitution of USA?

Mark_Landis6 karma

Sure. To pass superficial inspection, that is. I mean... it wouldn't pass all that stuff with scientific tests. We'll take that as a given from now on.

chooter1 karma

Did you see Tim's Vermeer?

Mark_Landis3 karma

I'm pretty sure I didn't, because I don't think I've seen a movie with the name Vermeer in it. Is it a new movie? Then I haven't seen it, no. I saw a Rembrandt with Charles Lawton.

popptarts6221 karma

What got you into forging art in the first place?

Mark_Landis7 karma

I answered this, the impulse one. And I answered it twice, I think, in another one.

pmpkng1 karma

What show/movie did I see that had exposed you? Its killing me.

Mark_Landis3 karma

Probably - I can't think - you wouldn't have seen anything, I would think? Maybe an article or something? Or wait a minute - I guess there was something on the news. But otherwise I wouldn't know. Would I?