The last few years have certainly been rich with them - flat out crazies like Lauren Stratford, lost souls like Binyamin Wilkomirski (those two separate sagas actually intersected at one point), literary notorieties Messrs. Frey, LeRoy (or is that Miss?), and Nasdijj, you name it.
Now, it seems, the art world has its own mystery: the life (if there was one) and (putative) career of an artist named Pietro Psaier. According to a British auctioneer (and almost no one else), he was something of a Zelig-as-Painter, starting with a supposedly close association with Andy Warhol.
This distinctly unconvincing image, though, is pretty much the only evidence offered up to date, with every other lead turning up dead, every supposed associate off the scene or quite willing to say they've never heard of Psaier or seen his work, and generally not a whole lot that one can place any trust in to confirm that the artist even existed, let alone basked in the charmed/toxic air of the legendary Factory.
From there, at various times, it's been bruited about that he worked with Basquiat, been a leading rock-poster designer, been New York's "artist of the year", been the last artist to sketch the dying Francis Bacon - and finally was washed away in the Tsunami of 2004. It sounds like quite a time - almost too good to be true. And likely is.
The art? While it has a certain Pop charm, it isn't exactly what one would call original.
But it's awfully decorative; really the kind of thing that people like in their living rooms. As one dealer has said, "My clients want something more modern these days. An Andy Warhol costs millions; these are just a couple of thousand. Frankly, I wouldn't mind if they were by Fred Bloggs."
Which may be just as well. I have a feeling that the poor souls who have, supposedly, been paying upwards of £14,000 for some of Psaier's works may well have ended up with, more or less, an original Fred Bloggs and not much more.