The Guardian has a review of a new biography
of the notorious art forger Han van Meegeren. The biography, by Frank Wynne, is titled I Was Vermeer: The Legend of the Forger who Swindled the Nazis
. Van Meegeren, who was driven to a career in forgery by anger at being ignored by the art establishment, ended up becoming fantastically wealthy from his career in deception, before his downfall:
Though he made a fortune from his forgeries, in the end owning some 15 country houses and 52 other properties, including hotels and nightclubs, his downfall came when he was arrested in 1945 for selling a Vermeer to Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering. When, finally, he admitted that the painting was, in fact, a forgery, the resulting court case turned into a media circus, a forum in which van Meegeren thrived. Here, at last, he got the revenge he thirsted for. As the judge said in his summing-up: 'The art world is reeling and experts are beginning to doubt the very basis of artistic attribution. This was precisely what the defendant was trying to achieve.'
I believe that an authentic van Meegeren fake is now worth a huge amount of money. There's actually a lot of demand for authentic fakes by well-known forgers (i.e. fakes that have a history of actually having fooled people). This, of course, has inspired a second-tier of forgers to create fake fakes.