Art Forgery 101
I wanted to be a painter. Instead, for more than thirty years, I made my living as an art forger.
When I was 18 years old and dead broke, I spent a great deal of time in museums. There were some simple, 16th-century Flemish portraits that I was sure that I could paint. Then one day, I was given an old book someone had found at The Strand about Han van Meegeren, a Dutch art forger from the 1930s and 40s who faked Vermeers. I can do that, I thought.
So I went back to those museums and stared at the painting for hours until they gave up their secrets. Then I spent weeks holed up in my garage, trying to re-create what I’d seen. When I was satisfied with the fruits of my labor, I took the train into New York City, went up to a dealer on West 57th Street, and promptly sold the painting for $800. Eventually, I was selling for $30,000 a pop.
I thought it would be something that I could do to support my own art — making forgeries in the morning, then working on my contemporary art in the afternoon. Quickly, however, forgery went from being something to fall back on to a full-time career.
So how’d I do it? By careful study and by using art dealer’s own prejudices against them.