John Myatt was an art forger. For years he painted copies of works and a fence sold them on the art market. The fence did all the dirty work of faking provenance and selling the story of the piece as he attempted to sell the piece itself. Myatt just painted the picture which, in and of itself, was not illegal.
Except, that is, that he knew that that his copies were being sold as originals. And that’s fraud. If nothing else, the amount of money he was making for each made not knowing that impossible.
Eventually, John Myatt went ‘legit’ and stopped being, according to Scotland Yard, one of the biggest art frauds of the 20th century. It took jail, though, to turn Myatt around. Once again he’s creating copies of famous paintings, but now he marks them as ‘genuine fakes’ and stays within the bounds of law, if not ethics.
But what if Myatt were copying contemporary paintings? What if he were selling re-created copies of paintings by artists who are still alive and even still working? And what if you were making a shitload of money from them?
Charlie Jane Anders at io9 has an article on Glenn Brown who is doing just that. Make up your own mind, but I hope you’ll keep the above in mind when reading it. The line between homage and rip-off is so very razor thin.