Transcript for 'Art and Craft': How a Master Art Forger Was Found Out
The guy you're about to meet is a master art forger who perpetrated his deception for nearly three decades, sometimes in costume, sometimes even with camera rolling. He managed to get his knockoffs of famous paintings into museums across the country. Why did he do it and why is he not in jail? Here's ABC's David Wright. Reporter: He may be the most successful art forger in American history, painting incredible copies of great works of art and convincing museums across the country they're real. They didn't believe me. I found 46 museums in 20 states with more than 100 pieces that he's offered up to these institutions. Reporter: Mark Landis, that's him putting on a priest's collar, part of the elaborate ruse that allowed him to fooled museums into thinking he was a philanthropist. And you're a master of disgui disguise? I wouldn't say that. Well, I did have the idea you had to be a jesuit priest. Reporter: His exploits and the story he all exposed all documented in the film "Art and craft." Landis created his fake masterpieces. I just use colored pencils because I can't tell. Reporter: So he could give them away. My name is mark, my recently deceased sister left archives a page -- Reporter: His con, one part forgery, the other I'm person nation. He posed as philanthropist in order to donate fake paintings. I'll bring it by to you this afternoon. Reporter: In this scene the filmmaker's follow Landis as he perpetrates his fraud, pausing first for a little little liquid courage before going. Is that an early form of color? I would like to see where you would put it. In the film you guys documented two occasions that I can count where he's actually going into the museum to give them a painting. So you were kind of come police it in this in a way, right? I think, how we approached it is observational dock men T Al documentarians. Reporter: What did you tell the museums you were doing? For the most part they had already spoken with mark because they All our legdary CING H All our pioering fo wheel drive perience Comeogether one among W vehicle I ISS thall-new E Coupe. A merces-benwiz V th the D T ansof a O Carra. Is there a trick, you have to pick somebody that's super obscure but also -- Oh, no, no, no. -- Interesting? First of all, what's most important is to find something that's not too hard to do, something that one of your children could do. And then you varnish it and bang it up some and throw some instant coffee on the back of it. And you're all done. Reporter: The thing is Landis never charged any of the museums a penny. He just tried to give them the works of art. And for that reason, what he did is not a crime. Apparently a forgery is only a forgery if you try and sell it. So technically these paintings are copies, nothing illegal. That said, Landis did embarrass the art world. I found his fourth alias -- Reporter: Which only discovered the extent of his fraud in part because of one dogged museum registrar. I became obsessed with it just like he is obsessed with making these paintings. He mess we'd the wrong registrar is what he did. Do you have a clear sense of why he did this? It wasn't money, right? The film that we made in essence is an attempt to answer that question. Certainly a lot of what drives mark in his life is just human interaction. Reporter: The motivation for his elaborate con, not malice or greed, but loneliness. Made me feel warm all over. I had a nervous breakdown when I was 17. Reporter: Landis is a diagnosed schizophrenic and by his own account he was a bit of a shut-in before with only his TV to keep him company as he worked late hours on his canvasses. I guess it was just years of watching TV, seeing philanthropists and big important people doing things. It was an impulse. I've always had poor self-esteem, for obvious reasons. And I really did, I got treated like rolty. And, listen, I liked it. Reporter: Now Landis says he's out of business as an art forger but he is thoroughly enjoying his new found fame. All this time never a New York visit? No, no. This is the first museum in new York that I've ever been to. Reporter: So we took him to see the collection. No forgeries here, which he scrutinized with, shall we say, professional curiosity. You see a lot of those. That's a beautiful -- actually it wouldn't be because you see how carefully the leaves were done? Reporter: Interested not just in the pictures but the frames as well. Well, I mean, you can get frames that look like that at Walmart and then if you bang them up and everything, it's true. But -- but the one -- the ornate ones -- As long as it doesn't say made in China. Reporter: Landis still paints and draws but only on commission these days. Landis had earned an accolade he never imagined, his own temporary exhibition. Must have felt good. You seemed to be enjoying it. Did I seem to be enjoying it? Yeah. I enjoyed -- I had never been to a show and I never had anybody take any interest in me. So naturally I started talking an met him as ilphroanth,stpi aspriest. So we told them we were making a movie about his career. Philanthropis he's eran ethalic qstiouen there, isn't it? It Uncomfortle to be filmingomething unfolding whenyo nou komw sngethit THA otherpeop 'T dleon
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