BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Elmyr de Hory

That was the same bomb that ticked right into the face of ex-Olympic skating champion Sonja Heinie and her husband Niels Onstad. They were the financial benefactors of the Heinie-Onstad Art Center in Europe. The couple put millions into the center and into the art that went into it only to find out that many of the paintings authorized for purchase by the Art Center’s board of directors were utter forgeries. Elmyr de Hory, the plots mastermind had a book written about him by Roger Beurefotte that was published in 1978. It made the charges that Hory along with accomplices, Fernand Legros and Real Lessard painted the pictures and pawned them off on the Gallery for enormous sums.

Worse yet, many of the paintings in question had been resold and were now in collector’s hands bearing their imprimatur. However, the unkindest cut of all is that collectors of great art do not make a big fuss about what is in their personal collections fearing robbery or worse. When the news came out that many people other than the Heinie-Onstad Gallery had been swindled, most of them did not even utter a peep, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that they had been gullible. Thus, the full amount of the damages caused by de Hory will never be known and the last people that are going to blow the whistle are the one’s keeping quiet. Moreover, they may have already sold their wares to some other unsuspecting dupe down the line.

However, de Hory is really a great painter and literally wasted his life doing copies of other people’s styles. His copies of painters such as Matisse, Picasso, Chagall Monet, Duffy, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Modigliani[93] and Picasso are now considered masterpieces beside the fact that they are just plain camp. They sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 a pop and are now hanging unabashedly all over the place. Among other places that are carrying his works are Santa Fe Galleries, San Francisco’s Terrain Gallery, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard, which had “Matisse” painted by de Hory but took it down when they discovered that it too was a copy. De Hory breathed his last in 1976, at the age of 68 when he downed a large quantity of barbiturates when he was about to be deported to France from Ibiza on charges of fraud. However, the man was a major talent and could have made quite a mark on his own if he only had a style that was not someone else’s. In the meantime, anyone that could make copies of all of the different old masters that would stand the test of gallery experts was exceptional to say the least. De Hory met and beat that test.



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