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The Artist Beneath the Art Forger – The New York Times

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ST. PETER, Minn. — Mark Forgy’s home on the outskirts of Minneapolis looks like a museum. Works of art hang floor-to-ceiling. They hang in stairwells, in closets and behind doors. In the living room, a bronze bust of the artist who made all these pieces smirks slightly from the corner, admiring his work: a Matisse, a Modigliani, a handful of Picassos.

Mr. Forgy owns the largest collection of work by Elmyr de Hory, one of the most notorious art forgers of the 20th century. In the 1950s and ’60s, de Hory is believed to have forged over a thousand works by major artists. Many have been removed from museums. Others, some experts say, have not.

Mr. Forgy has spent years dedicated to the memory of de Hory. He has written a book, gives talks and contributes to exhibitions on forgery. It is his calling, he says, and has all led to his newest endeavor: putting on an exhibition of de Hory’s original work. No forgeries. Just de Hory in his own voice.

“It’s work trying to be no one other than himself,” said Mr. Forgy. “There’s no pretense.”

The exhibition, at the Hillstrom Museum of Art in St. Peter, Minn., focuses on de Hory’s portraiture. Now, more than four decades after the painter’s death, viewers can “leave behind the sensational tabloid-worthiness of his story,” Mr. Forgy said. It is the first glimpse at the artist underneath the forger.

Credit…Philadelphia Museum of Art
Credit…Elmyr de Hory

Throughout his life de Hory struggled to inspire interest in his own work. A Hungarian artist, he came to the United States in August 1947, and by January 1948 he exhibited some work at Lilienfeld Galleries in New York. ARTNews described it as striking “the well-known chord of the School of Paris.” In a city exploding with the modernity of Abstract Expressionism, this meant “nice but old-fashioned.” De Hory sold only one. He blamed the opening night’s heavy January snowfall.

De Hory had, however, sold a handful of forgeries in Europe. Over the next decade, he traveled America and impersonated an aristocrat fallen on hard times after the war. He sold forgeries in the style of some artists who were still alive — Picasso and Matisse — and created so many forgeries of Amedeo Modigliani that it has become impossible to compile a definitive catalog of the artist’s work, according to Kenneth Wayne, director of The Modigliani Project.

Several hundred forgeries later, a handful of dealers caught on to him, told the authorities and ran him out of the country.

When Mr. Forgy met de Hory, it was on the beach of the Spanish island Ibiza, in 1969. A series of recent scandals had connected de Hory to forgeries in the U.S. and France. Yet, in Spain he was safe from consequences. So he embraced his new persona: the great forger who had fooled the art world. De Hory teamed up with the novelist Clifford Irving, who, taking de Hory’s exaggerations and inventions at face value, wrote a best-selling biography of the forger, “FAKE!” (Irving’s next project was a fraudulent autobiography of Howard Hughes, which landed him in jail.)

Into this era of mythmaking stepped the 20-year old Mr. Forgy. The two became close, and with its four-decade age gap, their friendship resembled that of teacher and student. De Hory would give etiquette lessons for royal company (the correct manner to kiss a princess’s hand) and regular tests on art history (“When did Botticelli live?”).

“He was more of a father than my actual father,” said Mr. Forgy, now 70. “He was concerned with my future.”

In his lectures on art, Mr. Forgy said, “Elmyr was always attempting mightily to champion the intrinsic merit of art as opposed to having a name tag on it.” He hated the market’s obsession with famous names. De Hory also made it clear that if his works could pass for original that made them, and him, as good as the greats.

After six years together, however, their friendship came to an end. De Hory was battling a new extradition request to France. When the news came that the extradition had been granted, Mr. Forgy was the one who told de Hory. On Dec. 11, 1976, de Hory killed himself.

He left everything to Mr. Forgy, who returned to Minnesota with around 300 of de Hory’s works. For decades he fell silent and moved on. Only in 2007 did he begin a memoir. After he self-published it in 2012, he adapted it into a play and then a musical. A new purpose for himself took shape as the caretaker of de Hory’s legacy. Mr. Forgy lent works to exhibitions on art forgery and recounted the story of the lovable rascal whose mischief turned the art world upside down. People found the story irresistible. Some were so intoxicated by it that a small market emerged for de Hory’s forgeries and pastiches. Mr. Forgy said that in 2014 a de Hory in the style of Matisse sold for $28,000. Other pieces have gone for a few thousand or hundred.

Mr. Forgy now believes this new exhibition can bring de Hory the recognition he sought during his life. The paintings were done in Ibiza and many are quick snapshots of friends, including several of Mr. Forgy. Some are unfinished or pulled from de Hory’s sketchbook. The variety of styles is striking. There are many that evoke the artists he forged. The playful simplicity of some of his drawing wobbles between channeling and being derivative of Matisse.

Julia Courtney, who co-curated an exhibition of forgeries at the Springfield Museums in Massachusetts, said she could see in de Hory’s work his affinity with Modigliani. A similar tendency to elongate the features might point to why de Hory turned to Modigliani so often when forging.

“His original work really opens up the door to who he was,” Ms. Courtney said. “There’s confidence in his line, shading. There’s a level of skill that’s apparent. Seeing the artist’s hand, that is sort of timeless.”

Some pieces are experimental and darkly stylized while others are naturalistic and melancholy, nodding to Albrecht Dürer. These are styles he never attempted, or felt confident enough, to forge.

De Hory’s variety of style is at once an indication of talent as well as his uncertainty. After a life of impersonation and lying about himself (including to Forgy — about, among other things, his name), it is difficult to pin de Hory down in his own work.

“The virtue of originality is overestimated,” Mr. Forgy insisted. Once when he asked de Hory if he felt he lacked any artistic tools, the older man said, “Maybe imagination.” But de Hory was original and imaginative in what he did through storytelling and sleight of hand, which exploited a specific moment in art history. That is an innovation few reach.

Gene Shapiro of Shapiro Auctions in New York says his story has value for museumgoers and collectors alike: “He’s infamous but he is a name that people will recognize. A collector, for example, may be proud to own his works and tell his story.”

The opening night at Hillstrom Museum of Art was a modest event. Like New York’s January in 1948, Minnesota’s February snowfall prevented many from making the drive up to the Gustavus Adolphus College campus, where the museum is located. But Mr. Forgy was ecstatic. “I’m finally paying the ultimate tribute to my friend,” he said.

The most revealing painting is perhaps de Hory’s self-portrait. Dark and haunted with opaque eyes, it is unfinished. The uncertainty with how to ultimately portray himself is perhaps de Hory at his most human, and his most honest.


The Secret World of Art Forger Elmyr de Hory: His Portraiture on Ibiza

Through April 19 at the Hillstrom Museum of Art, Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, St. Peter, Minn.; 507-933-7200; gustavus.edu/finearts/hillstrom.

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City set to vote on $50000 public art project in Richmond – Richmond News

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Richmond council is hoping to brighten up the Alexandra Greenway, just north of the Garden City Lands, with a budget of $50,000.

The city is calling local visual artists to submit applications to design a 2D piece of art for the greenway, as part of Richmond’s public art program.

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That artwork would be integrated into the asphalt paving of the car-free, multi-use corridor that runs along May Drive, between Alexandra Road and Alderbridge Way. The work will incorporate reflective markings to help with visibility and travel.

“Public art in this location will help animate a safe and multi-use path and make it more engaging,” reads a city report.

Artwork for the greenway would need to incorporate a theme set by the city, reflecting, for example, Richmond’s history and natural ecology.

Of the total proposed budget for the work, $5,000 has been set aside for the artist’s fee.

Concept image of the Alexandra Greenway. – City of Richmond

The remaining $45,000 will go towards implementation expenses incurred during the work, including production, installation or taxes.

The Alexandra Greenway will also feature a planted roundabout, new tree plantings and natural storm-water management system.

The money will come from the city’s public art reserve.

Once an artist and design has been selected, the proposed art will be brought to council for endorsement, likely this spring, with work to take place over the summer.

The Alexandra Greenway public art project and its $50,000 budget will be on the parks, recreation and cultural services committee agenda on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The city will also be voting on the 2020 work plan for the public art advisory committee, which includes raising awareness and understanding of public art, and recommending projects to council.

Richmond first adopted a public art program policy in 1997. Since then, Richmond’s public art collection has grown to 273 works, with 192 currently on display around the city. 

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City looking to electrify downtown with utility box art – Lethbridge Herald

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By Kalinowski, Tim on February 22, 2020.

The City of Lethbridge is looking for artists to help with designs for utility boxes around Galt Gardens and Casa. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The City of Lethbridge Public Art Program and the Heart of Our City committee are putting out a call to local artists to submit design proposals which could be used to add a bit of colour to utility boxes in Galt Gardens and at Casa.

“We are asking artists to come up with ideas to reflect the park, and the nature of the park, as sort of a hub of downtown,” explains Suzanne Lint, chair of committee responsible for the City of Lethbridge’s Public Art Program. “The theme is pretty wide open. Themes around flora and fauna. Things of historical relevance to the park. Play and activity. Just items that engage people and bring a smile to their face.”

Artists will receive a $500 honorarium if their designs are chosen. Six designs will be picked in total for the pilot project. These artworks are temporary with a life span of three to five years.

Lint says not only will the new vinyl wrap designs add beauty and colour to the downtown, they will also act as a graffiti deterrent.

“There is always tagging that happens, and the interesting thing is when you put up public art or a mural or you wrap a box there is a tendency for them to be left alone,” she says.

This competition is open to local artists of all ages, at all levels of their artistic practice. Proposal submissions will be accepted until March 23 with final designs required by June 1. For more information on the submission and evaluation process visit http://www.publicartlethbridge.ca/current-calls.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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Jo Jo Zhu inspires students during art classes in her Charlottetown studio – The Guardian

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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Sunshine streams through the window of The Bookworm in Charlottetown, creating a relaxing atmosphere for young people who are working on their paintings.

Overseeing her Wednesday afternoon art class, Jo Jo Zhu is enthusiastic.

“I am very proud of my students and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to teach and encourage them to chase their dreams,” says the Charlottetown art teacher, pointing out the young people around the room.

Jenny Wang holds her painting, Easter Bunny in the Moonlight. The seven-year-old lives in Stratford with her family. Sally Cole/The Guardian
Jenny Wang holds her painting, Easter Bunny in the Moonlight. The seven-year-old lives in Stratford with her family. Sally Cole/The Guardian

In one corner, April Deng is painting Sunset at Basin Head, mixing oils together on a palette to get the right shade of blue for the water.

She was inspired to create the painting after seeing a photo on the Internet.

“I’ve never been there before but, I thought it was very beautiful,” says the 14-year-old, who is looking forward to jumping into the water at the provincial park this summer.

On her break, she shows completed works – including New York’s Central Park and Nova Scotia’s Peggy’s Cove – inspired by her travels during summer vacation.

“Painting makes me feel relaxed. It’s one of my favourite things to do,” says the Queen Charlotte Intermediate student who, after picking up her first paintbrush when she was five, wants to become an artist/designer after high school.

“That’s why I’m working really hard.”


Artwork needed

  • Picture of the Day is a regular feature in the Guardian’s C section. It showcases the art of young people from across P.E.I.
  • Graphic artist Jo Ann Crawford coordinates the project, for the Guardian, contacting schools and Facebook pages for submissions.
  • When art teacher Jo Jo Zhu sent her some of her students’ artworks, Crawford was “blown away by the talent.” And, since then she has been happy to share her students’ talents with Guardian readers.
  • Crawford encourages other teachers or parents to submit drawings. They can drop the pictures off in person, at The Guardian office, 165 Prince St., marked picture of the day or send them, by email to newsroom@theguardian.pe.ca.

Ted Zhang works on a painting during Wednesday afternoon art classes. - Sally Cole
Ted Zhang works on a painting during Wednesday afternoon art classes. – Sally Cole

In another corner, Ted Zhang is painting a rabbit sitting on a cliff.

“I like the bunny. He’s really cute. To make my painting different, I’m doing a back view,” says the eight-year-old, creating an orange background before adding a furry centrepiece.

Jenny Wang has come up with her own take on the rabbit theme by painting Easter Bunny in the Moonlight.

“It’s fun,” says the Stratford resident.

On a wall nearby, April Li is busy working on Starry Night, a large mural inspired by Vincent Van Gough’s 1889 painting. She’s using oils and, to make it distinct, she’s adding extra elements – a little village as well as pine trees and some far-reaching mountains.

“As I was painting Starry Night, I imagined myself sitting on the grass, watching moon and the stars and the floating clouds,” says April, pointing out a mountain, which is shaped like an eagle and for good reason.

“I want to be like an eagle and soar through the sky,” says the Grade 9 student from Queen Charlotte Intermediate School, who has worked on the piece for three months.

April Li, 12, mixes oil paints for Starry Night, inspired by Vincent aan Gough’s famous work. She is one of Jo Jo Zhu’s art students who meet regularly at The Bookworm in Charlottetown to paint. - Sally Cole
April Li, 12, mixes oil paints for Starry Night, inspired by Vincent aan Gough’s famous work. She is one of Jo Jo Zhu’s art students who meet regularly at The Bookworm in Charlottetown to paint. – Sally Cole

 

In another room, Jake Zhang’s enthusiastic brush strokes have created Man on a Sofa. It’s inspired by a work by another artist that he saw in a book. Jake also shows a fox that he recently completed.

“I come to art classes because my teacher is very special. Her classes are very interesting,” says the 11-year-old who attends West Royalty Elementary School.

He’s one of the 12 students who attend Zhu’s art classes each week. A graduate of Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, Zhu moved to P.E.I. four years ago.

“I am a designer. I had my own studio in China. So, when I came here I wanted to help kids like April learn about art. I want to see them realize their potential.”

Jake Zhang shows two paintings he’s just completed – Fox and Man on a Sofa. Jake is studying art with Jo Jo Zhu. - Sally Cole
Jake Zhang shows two paintings he’s just completed – Fox and Man on a Sofa. Jake is studying art with Jo Jo Zhu. – Sally Cole

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