Chillin' with a Villain

This Saturday I had the honours to go to an exhibition held by Geert Jan Jansen. Geert Jan isn't just any ordinary artist, but a master forger (who also did some time in France. So he's a proper one...). This exhibition was dedicated to some of the forgeries he's made throughout the years and also some of his original works.

The most mesmerizing about Geert Jan is his ability to paint almost anything from anyone. A Rembrandt was plainfully standing there in the company of some Renoirs, de Lempicka, COBRA's and works by Van Dongen. It seems with all easiness he's reincarnated the soul and the allure of these masters' works. The brushstrokes are unbelievable and are in almost no way to be distinguished from those made by the actual masters (as was naturally the goal of them a few years ago).

Geert Jan is by no means what you'd expect from ex-jail clientele. He's nice and very sincere about his work and towards us -the people admiring it. However, he has this sort of atmosphere hanging over himself that's indescribable, almost secretive. He doesn't look you straight into the eyes while he for instance talks to you. Although over excessive staring is naturally no must, quite awkward really.

The way he moves himself around his castle (didn't I mention it was held in his castle. Beautifully static from the outside and nicely lived from the inside), he's very trusted with the environment and at no means sacrative with his work (while they still come with a price tag that'll make you bankrupt), but still there's something wrong. Something out of place. Not right. But what? I couldn't tell ya...

I was very lucky that day. My dad (who was also there), Geert Jan and I got talking about his work and we talked a bit about my 'work' and out of the blue he gave me his autobiography (which he has written in prison -he whispered softly to us) AND also signed it for me. Thank you very much!

A picture of me and the man in question, infront of a real Geert Jan Jansen painting.

The way that the exhibition was organized, wasn't really as much in the traditional sense because of all the other paintings that were for instance just standing around on the floor. It was quite messy, but that added to the atmosphere. I very much liked how the painting Ceci n'est pas un pipe originally by René Magritte was casually standing around, while the concept behind that particular painting (the treachery of images) could in some way be one of the more critical points behind the art of forgeries. As goes naturally for Andy Warhols Marilyn's and his mass-produced screenprinting series of it.

I'm always very interested in the way forgeries can make a living on its own and how the view upon the works created by the hand of a certain forger can change over nighttime. So it was naturally an absolute pleasure to meet someone who's works have gone through such a process. Naturally I don't approve of forgeries and it brings a lot of (unseen) damage into the world. However these kind of stories are also very important and can bring an interesting discussion and new views on the table as to what art is and what art is not. Which are naturally questions in the greatest interest of our heritage.

It was nice to see how very grounded and down to earth Geert Jan was. I'm very much looking forward to reading his book and to get to know his side of the story a little bit better. Who knows, maybe I'll learn something and make a drastic career move.... ;)