I just watched the documentary “Art and Craft.” There was more than one person who suggested that, given his talents, Mark Landis should paint original works, and sign them with his own name. Which sort of misses the point.

What he does, and why he’s become famous, is copy works by famous painters. Or copy their style, at least. And then pass off the works to museums and galleries as originals. One key point though, is that he doesn’t try to sell the works, and therefore is not committing any crimes.

He may know that what he does is forgery, but he calls it “philanthropy.” For Landis, it is the act – the entire act, of painting and presenting a work, complete with paper and wood and frames and canvases all made to look age-appropriate, and then presenting it to a gallery as authentic – that is important.

Yes, his work is undeniably good. But if he had toiled for these same years producing originals, would he be a famous painter? Probably not. As someone in the film said, his schtick is as much performance art as it is painting. And what a performance.

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