Forgers are the foremost artists of our age.
I’m not talking about the objects they make. Their real art is to con us into accepting the works as authentic. They do so, inevitably, by finding our blind spots, and by exploiting our common-sense assumptions. When they’re caught (if they’re caught), the scandal that ensues is their accidental masterpiece. Learning that we’ve been defrauded makes us anxious — much more so than any painting ever could — provoking us to examine our poor judgment. This effect is inescapable, since we certainly didn’t ask to be duped. A forgery is more direct, more powerful, and more universal than any legitimate artwork.
You have to understand that to a boy of the 1970s, the line between comic books and real life people was hopelessly blurred. Was Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, real or fake? Fake? Well, then, how about Evel Knievel jumping over busses on his motorcycle? Oh, he was real. The Superman ads said, “You will believe a man can fly,” and Fonzie started jukeboxes by simply hitting them, and Elvis Presley wore capes, and Nolan Ryan threw pitches 102 mph, and Roger Staubach (who they called Captain America) kept bringing the Cowboys back from certain defeat, and Muhammad Ali let George Foreman tire himself out by leaning against the ropes and taking every punch he could throw. What was real anyway?