John Myatt, once one of Britain’s most prolific forgers, has an exhibition of his own work opening this week in London. After serving 12 months in prison, the 69-year old painter of counterfeit Monets and Lichtensteins, among other artists, changed his course, and is now selling paintings in the style of those artists overtly advertised as fake and, it seems, is making a killing.
During his eight-year stint as criminal forger, Myatt created over 200 canvases, according to the Independent. Though he dropped that practice in 1999, it wasn’t until he got a request from a detective in Scotland Yard’s art and antiques unit to paint a portrait of him and his family that Myatt started his new career. Myatt doesn’t create exact replicas of existing works. “I only choose artists who interest me and I adopt their style,” Myatt told the Independent. “It is to some extent quite skilled. I hope what I do in a sense makes art accessible once more.”
Myatt has also spun his former career into media gold with a TV series (“Brush with Fame”), a Hollywood film (“Genuine Fakes”), and a book (“Provenance”), which was among Oprah’s “Top Four Summer Reading Picks” for 2009.
While authentic paintings by Van Gogh and Lichtenstein will sell for tens of millions of dollars, the fakes in the style of those artists on sale in Myatt’s new show can command tens of thousands. Avenue of Flowers, a canvas in the style of Monet, is on offer for £39,000 (roughly $66,000).
Showing that the game of selling openly faked works is an attractive option for former forgers, John Andrews, another ex-counterfeiter, has taken to eBay to sell reproductions of antiquities in his eBay shop “Phosphene Gallery – Deceptively Ancient Art,” where works come replete with fake antique provenance documents.
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