The UK’s “number one art forger” went from pulling poo from elephant bums to making millions – before ending up in jail.
Max Brandrett, known as Max the Forger, created hundreds of forgeries over 15-year career before reforming.
The 75-year-old has recreated work from famous artists including Banksy, and Italian artist Caravaggio. He once even painted a portrait of the Kray twin's mum.
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Even prison didn’t stop him and he smuggled supplies into his cell to fake several paintings, earning upwards of £4,000.
The pensioner hadn’t always been into art, it was something he stumbled upon after running away from home and joining the circus.
While working for the show, he was tasked with the care of 12 elephants – including some less desirable jobs.
To make sure that the animals didn’t defecate during the show, Max was tasked with putting his arm up the animal's backside and pulling out all of the “poo” inside.
The youngster was told he had to do it twice a day – and all he got for the unpleasant job was 10 shillings.
Soon after he moved to London and started to sell “smudges” on Portobello Road on Saturdays. It was not until he met his mentor and business partner Sammy Cohen that his forgeries developed into conning galleries and auction houses.
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Max, speaking to LadBible TV, claims that he never tried to forge any of the really well-known artists or pieces. Instead, he stuck with smaller work which would raise fewer questions, and wouldn’t be examined as closely.
Coupled with the pair's routine of a dad and son who know nothing about the hidden gem they’ve stumbled upon – he claims it worked every time.
While he claims he was largely successful with his fakery, he did land himself in prison more than once after being caught out – and several years ago, he even got himself banned for life from eBay over fake ceramic ducks.
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But it didn’t stop him. Max recalls a moment while in Dorchester prison, when Sammy came to visit and ask him to create more forgeries from his cell.
He claims that Sammy smuggled in six rolls of old paper, and other supplies in his coat and since he wasn’t seen as high risk, it was easy to smuggle them back to his cell.
Max began recreating artwork from jail, using a library book as a reference and hiding the fakes inside his bible.
“One day I had a cell search, which was very unusual and this time the governor came in and said ‘You’re a good lad, when you out?’ I had another month to go, then he picks up the bloody bible with two Samuel Palmers in and says ‘Go by the good book here Max’.”
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The artist claims that he made around £4000-£5000 by creating those forgeries from his cell.
Max is not certain how much he made through his 15 years of forgery, during which he and his partner would turn out around four forgeries per month.
However, he stated: “I think it could be £100 million to just nearly a million. You’ve got to think about what they were going for afterwards”.
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