“Is it art? Well, how is it valued? The value depends upon opinion, opinion depends on the experts, a faker like Elmyr makes fools of the experts, so who’s the expert? Who’s the faker?” Orson Welles in F for Fake.
F for Fake* is Orson Welles’ experimental 1974 documentary “about trickery and fraud, about lies… and any story is almost certainly some kind of lie.” It focuses on three fakers with deep conceptual connections, as seen through the lens of Welles’ own admitted penchant for telling self-aggrandizing lies in real life. Of course he can’t avoid mentioning in particular the huge trouble he got into as a result of drawing reality into his fiction (or vice versa) with Citizen Kane and his notorious War of the Worlds radio broadcast. “I didn’t go to jail,” he says sardonically, “I went to Hollywood!”
This is by way of contrast with one of the film’s other subjects, the art forger Elmyr de Hory, who did go to jail several times for his efforts. He was wanted by Interpol and various other law enforcement agencies for most of his life. It’s hard not to suggest that Interpol perhaps needed to sort out their priorities and do something more important instead of hounding an elderly man who painted unauthorised copies of expensive paintings and apparently did no harm to anybody who wasn’t a greedy, ignorant fool, especially if we also bear in mind that de Hory was driven to suicide two years after this film was released because he was about to be extradited to France (and probably given a long prison sentence) for some of his “art crimes”. Continue reading