Friday, September 22, 2023

Donating Fake Art: The Case of Mark Landis

One of the many great things about the holiday season is that I get to catch up on some reading. Just last night I was re-reading my property casebook from law school (and what a treat), as well as The New Yorker from August 26.

I don’t think I can get our readers to peruse a property law casebook, but if you have a few minutes to spare definitely read “The Giveaway” via the New Yorker. Here’s a taste.

Given the recent controversies regarding authentication disputes, fakes, forgeries, and the wild financial speculation over modern and contemporary art, it is very refreshing to read an article based on an individual who (spoiler coming) donates fake artworks to major US museums and, get this, not for the money or the donative write-offs, but rather — and from what I can gather — simply for the philanthropic feeling and the status that philanthropy conveys.

This story is much more complex than that. But one thing I do have to say is that the sophisticated cultural narrative woven by this individual is the best piece of performance art I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading about in a very long time — probably since Acconci’s Seedbed and Burden’s Shoot. This is art, pure and simple. There’s no criminal or unlawful intent, yet can there be philanthropic and personal reasons to donating fake works of art to multiple art institutions?

Whatever the case may be, this isn’t a simple case of fakes, forgeries and authentications. No, this is a much more creative and complicated project with creativity, subversion, social commentary and cultural critique to come along in a long while. This guy’s an artist, and yet he sees no need to call himself that or pepper his acts with art history or pass them through the myopic prisms of art institutions.

This is art. Read it.


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