His counterfeits may not have brought down the Knoedler gallery, but Mark Landis, subject of the forthcoming documentary “Art and Craft,” certainly got around in his 30-year high-profile art forging spree. Sometimes using little more than a pack of colored pencils, Landis graced a reported “46 museums in 20 states with more than 100 pieces.” These particular stats are delivered to us by Matthew C. Leininger, the other half of this merry tale, a former art registrar who has become obsessed with Landis and proceeds throughout the film’s runtime to chase him in the truest Tom and Jerry fashion.
Though the plot has all the mechanics in place for a gripping cop/criminal face-off, its players prove somewhat ill-suited for such stakes: Watch in the trailer as Leininger declares straight to camera, with near-Eastwoodian bravado, “He messed with the wrong registrar” — the kind of line that will probably not be gracing the side of promotional fast food cups any time soon.
Still, if not the true crime thriller du jour, “Art and Craft” certainly seems poised to be a playfully provocative addition to the art world film canon — following in the tradition of, say, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”s not-so-subtle takedown of art world hype. At one point, the forger describes his cons as having “a kind of performance art quality” as he knowingly dons a priest’s frock, his blithe conflation of trickery with creativity blurring the already shaky line between “art” and “artifice” — or rather blending it, expertly, in colored pencil.
Watch below as, in an exclusive clip, one of Landis’s marks recounts his elaborate ruse:
“Art and Craft” premieres on September 19.
— Anneliese Cooper (@DawnDavenport)