Mark Forgy is currently completing a forthcoming memoir about Elmyr and my life with him, entitled, “THE FORGER’S APPRENTICE: LIFE WITH THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS ARTIST.” The book recounts the Hungarian-born artist’s privileged upbringing, artistic training, destruction of his family and way of life by war, survival as a refugee, awakening his unusual talents, twenty-year career as the world’s most prolific art forger, public exposure of his exploits, and my companionship with him until his death in 1976.
When I first met Elmyr in 1969, he was, in his words, “famously infamous,” although the meaning of this clue was not immediately apparent. I soon discovered that the shock waves from his deep impact in the art world left many reeling and dazed, including him, by the attendant crush of attention. After twenty years of forced invisibility and career as the century’s most successful art forger, stepping into the public spotlight was an abrupt and unexpected transition. For many he became a sort of folk hero in the mold of Bonnie and Clyde, a monocle-wearing iconoclast and reminder of the fallibility of those experts who decided what was good or bad in art.
Until his death in 1976, Elmyr was my closest friend and mentor. His home became my personal finishing school where he taught me about art and culture, but also life in general. Many of the values he embodied and imparted to me, kindness, loyalty, generosity, honesty made boy scouts look brutish. Nor do they square with his rogue image. It was indeed mystifying how a casual encounter indelibly changed my life. Given the cavalcade of characters I met, many of whom seemed to spring from the mind of Lewis Carroll, bizarre inventions of a surreal imagination, I truly thought I slipped down a rabbit hole on the island of Ibiza.