“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, June 05, 2003


Casualty report:

- Assailants opened fire with a rocket-propelled grenade Thursday, killing one American soldier and wounding five, the U.S. military said. It was the latest attack in a tense city where resistance against American occupation has been vocal and sometimes violent. -- AP


Here's a story from the forgery front. It comes from Dennis Dutton from the usually more high brow Aesthetics-online site:

"The murder of Eric Hebborn on January 11th brought to a close one of the most illustrious careers of any twentieth-century forger. His body was found on a street in Rome, the city where he had lived since the 1970s, with his skull broken, probably by a hammer blow from behind. Only a few weeks before, he had published his second book, Il Manuale del Falsario (The Faker�s Handbook), a set of complete instructions on how to forge and market fake drawings and paintings from the European tradition."

Hebborn, Dutton reports, was an English eccentric on the grand, decadent scale. They always somehow drift to Italy -- the Aleister Crowleys, the Baron Corvos. Dutton was a working class boy. He was seduced, early, into the pleasures of fraud:

"While still a student, he went to work for a picture restorer named George Aczel. Restoration, it developed, meant much more that cleaning and retouching, and soon young Eric was painting large areas of old works, cleverly extending cracking into newly painted surfaces, and even �improving� old paintings by augmenting them. An insignificant landscape became, with the addition of a balloon in its grey sky, an important (and expensive) painting recording the early history of aviation. As Hebborn says, �a cat added to the foreground guaranteed the sale of the dullest landscape� Popular signatures came and unpopular signatures went� Poppies bloomed in dun-coloured fields.�

Count on a murderer for a purple style, Nabokov's Humbert says in Lolita. Dutton remarks that Hebborn's art, under the disguise of more expensive signatures, was authenticated by such experts as his Highness's official art historian and Communist spy, Anthony Blunt, and by Sir John Pope Hennessy, a big name in art collecting circles.

Life was good for Hebborn for a while. He had a fellow forger as a lover, he had the ready, it was Rome in the sixties and seventies. We particularly like Dutton's account of all that:

His loves included a relationship with Graham [the fellow forger] that lasted for some years, until Graham became �sexually tired of me, and was constantly looking about for a change�even girls.� After that, he seems to have settled down with Edgar, and though he spent a night in Sir Anthony Blunt�s bed, nothing happened due to due to the drunken condition of both. �Brewer�s droop,� Hebborn calls it.

Humpty Dumpty always has his fall. Hebborn, of course, revenged himself on the art world by revealing his bad seed, and fingering paintings that probably aren't forgeries. While a hammer blow is certainly not the gentlest way to depart this mortal coil, Hebborn does not seem to have had an unhappy life, much as he was the occassion for it in others.

James Fuentes story of a more up to the minute forgery -- the forgery of Jean Michel Basquiat paintings, no less -- is much sadder. It comes from Blow Up, an on-line mag.

"Alfredo Martinez convinced art collector, Leo Malca, to purchase two paintings by Jean Michel Basquiat in the late winter of 2002 for a bargain price of $38,500. The pieces belonged to Tom Warren, a staff photographer at Sotheby�s and the forthcoming yearbook of New York�s cultural elite, The New York School. The work in question had appeared that December in an exhibition Martinez co-curated with me entitled, �Welcome to the Playground of the Fearless.� Alfredo took charge of returning the pieces to Warren, but before doing so, made his own versions. After returning Warren�s paintings, he mentioned that there was interest in the work from collectors who saw the show. He said he wanted to make copies of the certificates of authenticity before shopping the work around. Tom handed over the certificates, which Alfredo went on to forge as well. He then returned falsified certificates to Tom and sold fake paintings � with real certificates � to Malca. "

Martinez, like Hebborn, was a determined outsider to the art world. This is not your highness's grandmother's art world -- this is the disco art world that Warhol invented, and the devil has kept going ever since. This is Martinez's art career:

"Alfredo Martinez�s art career began in 1994 when his work was shown at the Pat Hearn Gallery. The show was �Skater Angels,� curated by David Greenberg and Diego Cortez. He went on to participate in the seminal �Bong Show� at Alleged Gallery, where artists such as Tom Sachs and Mike Kelly made elaborate bongs as sculpture. He reached the height of legitimacy after participating in two group shows � �Agent Artist� in 1994 and �Generation Z� in 1999 � at P.S.1, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art. In the summer of 1999, famed art critic Roberta Smith reviewed an exhibition he curated, �Ne'er Do Wells,� for The New York Times. That same year, a dot-com millionaire by the name of Joshua Harris financed an indoor firing range designed by Alfredo for a millennial project entitled �Quiet.� Alfredo personally sound-proofed it and had it staffed with ex-Navy Seals. He literally shot his way through the new millennium with high powered, automatic weapons.

These were noteworthy achievements for someone who never graduated high school. In a community where an MFA may not even get you up to bat, Alfredo managed to go pretty far in the art world with no formal education. In this regard, he was a true folk artist � an elitist term synonymous with �outsider,� a derelict. The NY Post once described Alfredo as, �a hulking 300 pound gun-toting Puerto Rican madman.� Manhattan District Attorney, Andrew De Vore, described him as �homeless.� I consider Alfredo what I consider every good artist to be: a magician."

The heights of legitimacy. LI wonders what it looks like from such peaks.

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