Maxwell DuVage seemed to come out of nowhere. One of the world's most famous artists, he suddenly appeared on late night talk shows and in the most popular magazines. It was understood that his work had been sold on the market for exorbitant sums of money at some point, but now collectors quietly hoarded his pieces and supposedly no one would even admit to owning any out of concern it might be stolen.
But just as quickly as he began enjoying the luxuries of celebrity, he ceased working.
"I think the greatest thing an artist can do now is nothing," he said once, on Jim Carmash's program, Saturday Midnight. "Art isn't a dead horse, it's dust." The crowd cheered.
He couldn't care less about the rumors circulating that he had never been an artist, various theories explaining that he was a con man who was more experienced in swindling lonely housewives and desperate husbands out of their life's savings or that he had destroyed his family and faked his own death to begin a new life under an assumed identity. He said the rumors were all the better for his art.
"Andy Warhol was the first to realize that the artist doesn't need to create his own art, I'm the first man to realize that the artist no longer needs to create any art."
His perfectly good looks put him straight into magazines like Visage. Men and women swooned in his presence, excited to be so near such a visionary genius. Within days of his second television appearance, he was a cultural phenomenon. It was nearly possible to avoid hearing about him. Simultaneously lauded as one of the greatest minds of his generation and one of the most incorrigible egoists, one thing was absolutely certain; he was one of the most famous people in the Western world.
One courageous reporter took it upon herself to uncover the truth behind DuVage's history. She managed to piece together the history of Maxwell DuVage and could find no reference to the man's existence prior to a Manhattan gala about one year prior to his first television appearance. Certainly, it had been said that DuVage had been "in the air" some time before reaching the recent heights of his celebrity, but it had been difficult to place him. Various art collectors claimed to have pieces of his work, but none were acknowledged by DuVage himself. Finally, the reporter had discovered that the individual posing as "Maxwell DuVage" must, in fact, be one Colin Feuwirth, and was certainly little more than a well-read con man.
An exhaustive exposé was published in the New Yorker, proving seemingly beyond a shadow of a doubt Feuwirth's duplicity. This news brought him out of a temporary slump in publicity, back on every late night talk show that could get him, back into every magazine he had the time for.
"It's true, I've never been a trained visual artist, I lied about my history and my body of work" he explained on Talking Tonight, "but is that what really matters?" Smiling, he calmly told Jimmy Waters, the host, "I think it's obvious to anyone that I am a great artist. In fact, I think this article just proves what a great artist I really am.
"I truly am the greatest artist in the world, and now I can admit it."