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It takes skill and cunning to be a con art- ist. Like magicians, some artists create the illusion that their canvas reproductions are originals — and thrill to the applause, which lulls them into thinking that their brazen acts will live on. The five con artists in the current Ringling Museum show, Intent to Deceive: Fakes and forgeries in the Art World, almost got away with it. Three of them came to no good end. One committed suicide. One was found dead in an alley in 2000. (The case was never solved.) Another died of a heart attack just as he was to begin serving a prison sentence. (He made the mistake of passing off his fraudulent Vermeer to a German art dealer, who sold it to Hermann Goring, Hitler's second-in-com- mand; the same Goring who was responsible for plundering European art collections.) "On the other hand, a happy ending belongs to the living British forger, John Myatt," says Chris Jones, assistant curator of exhibitions at the Ringling. "When Scotland Yard discov- ered his activities, Myatt served only one year in jail." Jones continued, "The story of another liv- ing forger, the American, Mark Landis, is sad, perhaps stemming from a lifelong men- tal illness. Landis has not been prosecuted Elmyr de Hory draws a Modigliani. Hory is among the featured artists in the current Ringling Museum show, Intent to Deceive. Photo courtesy of The Ringling Museum THE FINE ART OF CON ART NOT EVERYONE WHO COPIES THE MASTERS IS OUT TO DECEIVE By Barbara Dondero Contributing Writer

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