Arthur J. Williams Jr. is perhaps best known for being the counterfeiter who successfully replicated the supposedly impossible to replicate 1996 hundred dollar bill. Secret Service agents doggedly pursued Williams as he printed what some estimate to have been as much as $10 million in fake money before he eventually landed in federal prison for six and a half years. This was the third time he was incarcerated for his criminal exploits that have been covered in Rolling Stone, VICE, Gizmodo, Forbes and featured on American Greed.
This story sounds like the biography of a career criminal, but during that last stint behind bars, Art reinvented himself as a legit artist. Sticking to what he knew, Williams began painting old currency to pass his time, as well as reconnect to his artistic nature. He began reading books on Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and over time, mastered their techniques with his own personal ones. With his admiration for the ancient art of engraving still captivating him, his passion for ink transformed to oil, thus bringing him to create the masterful collection of currency on canvas and paper.
Since his July 23, 2013 release, Williams cleaned toilets, transported exotic cars, delivered liquor, and painted new construction. Rather than returning to the press, and just print the money to acquire his vision, Williams stayed true to the course for the last 3 and a half years. Working during the day to pay the bills, and staying up late to perfect his craft, Art had a victory of sorts when his 5 Educational Series Bill Collection that he created in prison opened at a Chicago gallery, all selling modestly.
With a chance to make more money illicitly, the offers were there, Williams has put the focus on the brush and focused solely on work, family and staying free. Choosing to believe in his art rather than his proclivities for crime, Williams has created the 1875 Freedom Collection. This is a collection of currency that was printed in honor of the enactment of the civil liberties act. Within each bill’s design is a powerful, female character representing the strength of America.