Mark Forgy with a fake Matisse painting by Elmyr de Hory in a 2009 exhibition at Gustavus Adolphus College. (Star Tribune photo by Glenn Stubbe)
The story of Mark Forgy, the Hopkins High grad who became the heir to the “greatest art forger of our time,” is almost as improbable as that of his benefactor, Elmyr de Hory. A Hungarian-born artist who fell into the forgery business after WW II, De Hory and his dealers successfully hawked his ersatz Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Modigliani sketches into private and museum collections. Some have been denounced, but hundreds are believed to linger, undetected, in collections around the world.
Forgey, who now lives in New Prague,MN has just self-published “The Forger’s Apprentice,” a lively, gossipy account of the seven years he spent with De Hory on the Spanish island of Ibiza where he was swept up in a jet-set world of film stars and literati (Ursula Andress, Robert Graves, Marlene Dietrich), third-tier aristos, small-time thugs and hangers on. Clifford Irving recounted DeHory’s life in a 1969 biography, “Fake,” and Orson Welles treated it in a 1974 documentary, “F for Fake.”
After De Hory’s death, by suicide in 1976, Forgy settled his estate, returned to Minnesota, and put the high life behind him — until now. “Apprentice” is an incredible read, full of utterly improbable but evidently real characters, and redeemed from its Euro-trash name dropping by Forgy’s down-home metaphors. Observing Dietrich at a London dinner party, he writes: “More alarmingly, her teeth had discolored as though placed in a water glass each night with a generous dollop of Copenhagen chewing tobacco.” Ouch.