How Art Forger Elmyr de Hory Made $50 Million

Ibiza is called home by many colorful characters, but in the 1960s, no other islander inspired as much intrigue as Elmyr Dory-Boutin. He is recognizable by his gold monocle, patterned bow tie and elusive accent. Like Gatsby, he threw lavish parties in an outdated villa overlooking the sea. Among the guests were celebrities Marlene Dietrich and Ursula Andress, who looked at Dory-Boutin’s collection of priceless Paris paintings and doubted their owners of royal blood.

They were wrong. Just as Gatsby confided to Nick Callaway, Dory-Butin eventually opened up to his own neighbor, a journalist named Clifford Owen. He is not of royal blood, and the paintings displayed in the villa are neither priceless nor Parisian; they are fakes, forged by himself and sold to galleries and oil tycoons under false identities. Dory-Boutin is one of them. Presumably, his real name is Elmyr de Hory.

Much of what we know about de Horry’s early existence comes from the biography Irving went on to write, titled Forged! The story of Elmyr de Hory, the greatest art forger of our timeAccording to the book, De Hori was born in Budapest. He discovered his artistic talent at an early age and nurtured it in several institutions, but when he realized that classical painting – the kind he studied and admired – had been eliminated by Fauvism, Expressionism and Cubism, he encountered an existential crisis.

How Elmyr de Hory Started Forging

Had De Horry been a century earlier, he wouldn’t have had much trouble earning a living from his work. Currently, the Great Depression has made his situation worse, and a global financial crisis has pulled many buyers out of the art market. The Great Depression was followed by war, part of which Dehorri may have spent in Transylvania, where he was imprisoned for political dissent. The openly gay painter also claimed he saw the interior of German concentration camps before Hitler was defeated.

Postwar France brought the same problems to de Horry’s career as prewar France. He struggled to market his paintings, and while seriously considering a career change, on an unsuspecting day, he sold a small pen drawing to a woman who mistook Picasso for it. Mimicking the styles of other painters, the reinvigorated de Horry moved from gallery to gallery, showcasing Picassos, Matisse and Modiglianis the curators thought had never been seen.

Elmyr de Hory in F is for fake.

De Hory has been selling fakes for years. When someone finally caught on, it wasn’t because they noticed a difference between de Horry’s painting and the artist he was imitating, but because they saw tiny similarities between the forgeries themselves. De Horry fled to Ibiza, where due to various legal loopholes he had no fear of arrest until his suicide in 1976. Today, experts estimate his fakes sold for more than $50 million, making him one of the most successful counterfeiters of all time.

The value of counterfeit art

Like many forgers, de Horry is remembered as a great liar, not a great artist—oddly, considering his fakes were so flawless that even the most experienced critics thought They are genuine. Before Dehory’s cover was revealed, galleries were willing to invest heavily in his paintings. However, once the hoax was revealed, those identical paintings were deemed worthless, taken down and thrown into the nearest bin.

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This begs the question: what makes original art more valuable than counterfeit art?Many estheticians—scholars who study the nature and perception of beauty—have tackled the problem, but none have been as successful as legendary filmmaker Orson Welles, whose 1974 documentary F is for fake Not only showcases the work of Elmyr de Hory, but also explores the elusive relationship between illusion, intrigue, genius and art.

Although DeHorry was a wanted man, Wells didn’t introduce him that way.Instead, the artists we meet F is for fake We come across as less of a liar than a sort of Robin Hood who uses his skill and charisma to overcome dull institutions, which honestly might blow their self-esteem. De Hory comes across as witty, creative and life-affirming. Of course, he was cut from the same cloth as those creative geniuses whose copyrights he violated.

redemption of counterfeiters

Orson Welles not only respects DeHori, but identifies with him.Enter halfway F is for fake, the documentary draws our attention to some of the shenanigans surrounding its director. Wells’ acting career began when he traveled in England as a teenager, convincing a troupe that he was a rising star on Broadway.his 1938 radio adaptation world warMeanwhile, a nationwide panic was triggered when listeners didn’t realize the “newscast” about an alien invasion was pure fiction.

More importantly: the quality of the art or the identity of the artist? Orson Welles shares his thoughts.

Besides proving that trickery can create great art, F is for fake It is also believed that the originality and value we attach to this concept is itself an illusion. De Horry is far from the only artist who presents the real as the real, and it really isn’t. Wells pointed to Owen, the journalist who wrote a book about DeHorry, who had previously admitted to making up what readers thought was an autobiography of the mysteriously reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

The same principle applies to Picasso. Although often considered a genius painting in a creative vacuum, in reality he had a heavy responsibility to other artists and was often stolen. It’s not that he’s a thief, but that making art is a collaborative and assimilated process, not an individualized Orson Welles pasting together existing narratives to form F is for fakeso did Elmyr de Hory – in forging the work of other painters – creating art that was completely unique and equally valuable in many ways.

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