Documentary on the Most Prolific Art Forger in US History

August 26, 2014

Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century Icons, the Hudson River School, and even Picasso. And while his copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis has never been in it for the money. Posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest, Landis has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States. But, when Matthew Leininger, a registrar in Cincinnati, discovers his thirty-year ruse and organizes an exhibition of the work, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.

And yet it’s not so clear that he can. An outsider who craves connection and respect, Landis is a diagnosed schizophrenic whose drive to create and donate forgeries stems from a need to socialize in settings where he’s comfortable and in control. It’s a circumstance he’s come to understand as an outright “addiction to philanthropy.”

Enriched by testimony and scenes featuring health care providers, law enforcement officials, museum professionals, and art historians directly connected to Landis’ story, Art and Craft begins in the early days of Landis’ public discovery and ends in the months after the first public exhibition of his body of work. What starts out as an art caper, rooted in questions of originality and authenticity, emerges as an unflinching exploration of life with mental illness and the universal need for community, appreciation, and purpose.

"Art and Craft" on Kickstarter.