As I told you last week, after taking much money from a great number of art dealers and gallery owners in Europe and the States, Elmyr de Hory decided to leave United States and went to Ibiza to mess up there. His aristocratic air and innate skill to get along the world of parties soon made him one of the most requested figures of the dolce vita at Ibiza.
Between one party and the next one, our friend continued painting forgeries that his partners Fernand Legros and Réal Lessard happily hung at museums and private collections all around the world. So, as a fellow of mine would say, Elmyr was “living on easy street”.
But in 1967 something happened, and everything changed. The Texan oil baron Algur H. Meadows, suspicious about a couple of paintings of dubious origin that he had just purchased, commissioned a report to five experts, about the authenticity of all his collection. The verdict of those guys was unanimous: thirty-eight of his more than fifty pieces were more false than the embrace of a mother-in-law.
That tremendous scandal alerted art buyers throughout the world, who more scared than ashamed started to scrutinize their collections in case there were more forgeries. And indeed they found them: dozens of paintings were withdrew from several exhibitions in Paris, pieces by Dufy, Derain and Modigliani were taken away from the walls of the Japanese National Museum of Western Art, several auction houses from the United States closed their doors until further notice…
One of the most curious aspects of this issue is that all those forged pieces had their papers in order and had their authenticity certificates endorsed by reputed specialists. Though, well, I guess that if somebody is able to fake a Picasso or a Matisse I think he would not have a great problem to plagiarize some signatures.
All eyes turned on Legros and Lessard, two art dealers with a far too big catalogue for a couple of guys who practically had just got into art market. Where had they got such an amount of forgeries? The press began to speculate about the existence of a clandestine workshop of artists on a salary in the South of France. But the police, that are very clever, concluded that all the business came from Ibiza, more particularly from the house of a man called Elmyr de Hory.
Overnight, Elmyr went from complete anonymity to global stardom, a sort of art Robin Hood who had stolen and embarrassed the most prestigious art experts. Magazines and televisions all around the world fought to get an interview with the newly named “the greatest forger of all times”. His fame was such that in 1974 Orson Welles himself, dazzled by the self-confidence of our friend, travelled to Ibiza to shoot a documentary about him, entitled F FOR FAKE.
And as we’re talking about frauds and pirated issues, here you have a link where you can watch the complete documentary for nothing.
To be continued…
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Translation: Dora Sales
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