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Master art forger exhibits own work and fakes

Dutch art forger Geert Jan Jansen, once dubbed the master forger of the 20th century, has gone legit with an exhibition of his work in the city of Zeist.

Dutch art forger Geert Jan Jansen, once dubbed the master forger of the 20th century, has gone legit with an exhibition of his work in the city of Zeist, Netherlands.

He still produces fake paintings, but this time signs his own name on the canvas next to a "signature" of the original artist.

Jansen says he only turned to forgery during the 1970s to pay his rent and utility bills.

"When a musician reproduces a sonata of Bach, one applauds him. Me, I reproduce a sonata of Picasso and I am placed under arrest," points out Jansen, who has never been convicted.

He was arrested in 1994 after an expert at a gallery noticed an error on a fake certificate of authenticity.

Jansen spent a few months in detention awaiting trial in Orleans, France. He used that time to write his autobiography.

The book was later published and laid bare Jansen's 30 years of deception. Nevertheless, he has never been convicted of forgery.

Galleries remain silent after arrest

Some 1,600 canvasses were seized upon his arrest, but prosecutors could never convict him because no gallery was prepared to come forward as a complainant.

Jansen likes to emphasize that he copies only artists that he admires, such as Matisse, Chagall and Picasso. He claims to be "incapable of imitating" artists he doesn't like.

Now nearing his seventies, he says he'd like to be regarded as an original artist in his own right. A few of Jansen's works hang alongside his famous copies at the chalet in Zeist, 50 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam, where his work is being exhibited.

Ever the master forger, Jansen hints that there are still fake canvasses out there, hanging in world-renowned galleries.

"Today, still, several collections have my work." 

Then, he refuses to divulge any more.