Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Faking It : Elmyr de Hory - The Century's Greatest Art Forger

Partners in Crime

Together, the men decided to travel the U.S. and sell their wares to unsuspecting gallery owners. They traveled from coast to coast, raking in large sums for Elmyrs artistic creations. Before long, it became clear that Legros had as much talent for salesmanship as Elmyr did painting forgeries. It was an ideal business partnership in which two geniuses deployed their abilities for maximum profit. But it turned out that the arrangement was far from perfect.

Legros soon wanted half of the profits. But Legros was actually getting more than his fair share. Elmyr was unaware that Legros was pocketing a majority of the earnings and giving Elmyr only a small cut of the proceeds.

Moreover, Legros volatile temper and obsessive behavior began to surface, causing concern for Elmyr. During their American travels, Legros befriended a French-Canadian man ten years his junior named Real Lessard. The two developed a    relationship and spent a great deal of time together. Lessard even accompanied Legros and Elmyr on many of their trips.

Shortly into the affair, Legros began to mistreat Lessard, often accusing him of infidelity and publicly degrading him. Although Lessard fervently claimed he had been faithful, Legros refused to believe him. The reality was that Legros was the unfaithful one, courting a continuous stream of young men. Nevertheless, Lessard loved Legros and refused to leave him.

Throughout the relationship, the two constantly bickered and squabbled. At times the arguments resulted in highly dramatic verbal rows and occasional physical struggles, often initiated by Legros. The fights angered Elmyr and he grew to    dislike Legros for his deceitful and outrageous behavior.

Elmyr soon had enough and he wanted to distance himself from the couple. In 1959 he decided to return to Europe, where he intended to go into business by himself. Elmyr spent several months traveling to several countries, painting and selling his stock. He made enough money to be comfortable, but not nearly enough to live the way he wanted to.

One day during a trip to Paris, Elmyr unexpectedly ran into Legros. Despite the fact that Legros faced financial problems after his main source of income had fled, he did manage to forgive Elmyr. Especially since Elmyr could help him out of his current bind. Legros tried to convince Elmyr to give him some of his paintings and drawings to sell so that he could support himself. Elmyr said he couldnt because all of his artworks were locked away in a hotel back in New York. After a brief conversation, the two men parted. Little did Elmyr know that Legros was planning yet another scheme.

Legros promptly contacted the New York hotel where Elmyr kept his stash. Without Elmyrs knowledge, Legros arranged to pick up the belongings within the week. Not long afterward, Legros had the drawings and paintings in his possession. He set about selling Elmyrs forgeries for premium prices in the international art market, making a name for himself and fattening his wallet.

Almost a year later, Elmyr ran into Legros again. This time the roles were reversed. Legros was an up-and-coming art dealer with immense potential and Elmyr was struggling to make ends meet. During the conversation, Elmyr was particularly impressed that Legros seemed to have changed and was more sophisticated. According to Irving, Elmyr believed that Legros had grown up and possibly found a sense of responsibility. From that moment on, Elmyr decided to begin a new business relationship with Legros.

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