Fraud, it seems, without any monetary benefit to the forger, is not a crime. And this is known best by Mark Landis, who has duped some of the most prestigious art museums in the country with his copycat pieces for more than 30 years. The new documentary Art and Craft, opening this Friday, peers into the life of Mark Landis and follows him as he deceives museum registrars and aggravates the one man always on this case, former registrar Matt Leininger.
Mark Landis proves to be a lovable, almost cartoonish character, obsessively recreating fool-worthy works of art while watching classic movies and sipping wine out of a Philips bottle. In between doctor visits at the mental clinic and making trips to Hobby Lobby to gather supplies for his forgeries, Landis lovely talks about Mother, who passed years ago. He regularly donates in her memory, as well as the memory of his imaginary deceased sister. He was Mother’s caretaker and seems lost without her, biding time with his art and performances.
Landis also talks of his childhood – sitting in hotel rooms alone, copying paintings from catalogs. When creating a piece, he isn’t quite sure about all the colors and brush strokes in the originals, but, as Landis notes, neither are the registrars. Landis never seems nervous that is works will be identified as phonies, but more concerned about being recognized himself and denied his passion for philanthropy.
Just as Landis is obsessed with gifting copied works of art, Matt Leininger is obsessed making sure he doesn’t. Leininger relentlessly tracks Landis, which contributed to losing his job as registrar of the Cincinnati Art Museum. In a surprising twist, however, Leininger curates an exhibition all about Landis and invites him up from Laurel, Mississippi to see his own works on display.