Forgers, you might think, are the cool kids in the world of art crime: smart, cynical conmen with scads of stories to tell. Who could be better company? But it isn’t so. Most forgers are sour and sullen, for theirs is a hard fate. For starters, their work forces them to lurk in the shadows, forbidden ever to step into the open and bask in praise and prizes. Worse, they are victims of a cosmic prank. Although blessed with technical flair – the great exception was the notoriously inept Dutch forger Han van Meegeren – they have not been granted creativity. This is a kind of fairytale curse, like having a gift for languages but nothing to say.
Such, Shaun Greenhalgh tells us, is his own predicament. Although he was able convincingly to fake artworks spanning a remarkable range – from paintings supposedly found in ancient Egyptian tombs to sculptures ‘by’ Barbara Hepworth and Gauguin – his own work went unheeded. ‘So much for being an artist,’ Greenhalgh