The Stranglers 1977 hit “No More Heroes” asks “Whatever Happened to..?” and goes on to list some of the “heroes” in question. One of these is “the great Elmyr-a”, and if you’ve ever got to that point in the song and caught yourself wondering who on earth The Stranglers were talking about, well it’s quite a story…
Elmyr de Hory (1906-1976) was one of the most notorious art forgers of all time, and is thought to have sold over 1,000 forgeries to galleries and art collectors all over the world. De Hory always denied that he had ever signed any of his forgeries with the name of the artist whom he was imitating, since painting in the style of an artist is not a crime – only signing a painting with another artist’s name makes it a forgery. By 1968 he was on the run from both Interpol and the FBI and returned to his home in Ibiza to accept his fate. In August 1968 he was sentenced to two months in prison on charges of homosexuality as there was no proof that he had ever painted any of the alleged forgeries on Spanish soil, he was then expelled from Ibiza for a year. By now he was something of a celebrity and after a year in Spain he returned, with a hope that his new found fame would help him to sell his own, original works. In December 1976, just a year before “No More Heroes” was released, the Spanish government agreed to extradite De Hoory to France to face fraud charges. De Hoory responded by taking an overdose of sleeping pills and died on the way to the hospital.
Despite the criminal charges, de Hoory became something of a folk hero, and there have even been “fake Elmyr”s on the market since his death, forgeries of the alleged forger.
He is quoted as asking “Who would prefer a bad original to a good fake?” It’s such a great question, daring us to re-evaluate our thoughts about authenticity, ownership and even how we define art. It’s suitably Punk Rock really.
Hugh Cornwell, talking about the song No More Heroes in an interview published on songfacts.com says, “When No More Heroes came out, we refused to sign autographs because we were saying, “Don’t have heroes. Be your own hero.” The people in No More Heroes are anti-heroes really.”
Elmyr also featured in an Orson Welles film “F is for Fake” (1973).