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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida is officially flooded with art this week as Art Basel and the hundreds of events and satellite fairs surrounding it, open up all over town. One of the artists featured in an upcoming exhibit has quite a story to tell.
Arthur Williams Jr. has gone from a career criminal counterfeiter to making real money from his art, that is all about money.
Arthur Williams Jr., now a famous artist, started out committing crimes at age 12.
It all began in the south side of Chicago when he found his single mom at home crying because she had no money to feed her family dinner.
“I ran out of the house mad and I walked down the street mad and I was hitting meters and I could hear change jingling. So I figured out how to open them up, so I took all the change and went and bought groceries and brought them home. That was my first introduction to crime,” Williams said.
Years later, after doing petty street crime and some time, he saw his first 1996 $100 bill.
“I had never seen it before and they pulled out a pen and marked it and I was like is that all they do? They just marked it and put it in a jar. So at that time, I was like if I could figure that out I got to run, you know?” he said.
Run with it he did, becoming infamous as the man who perfected the counterfeit $100 bill.
“It took about 2 years to figure out how to get the paper right,” he said.
Before he knew it, he was rolling in fake dough. He traveled and bought a lot of stuff.
“It was getting crazy so we came up with an idea since I grew up poor, why don’t we buy all kids stuff and drop it off at the whatever charity in that town. So we got addicted to that we were like Robinhood! We were bouncing from town to town. It was great,” Williams said.
But eventually, he was caught. At his sentencing for 6-and-half years, the judge had a talk with him.
“He said I really do hope you take this time that I give you and find something that your passionate about and learn everything that you can about it like you did with the money and promise you will be successful at it,” he said. “It was really awesome and man it hit me,” he explained.
Soon, Arthur began painting pictures if what had always fascinated him: money.
“I painted my first piece. It took a year and it was stunning and I was crazy detailed with it. I fell in love with painting,” he said.
Once he got out, he did everything he could to stay on the right path. He had a wife and a new bay named DaVinci.
“I cleaned toilet bowls, I delivered liquor, I transported cars, I painted houses, I always kept a job,” he said.
Then last June tragically his house burned down- there was a thing that didn’t burn, a painting.
“I felt like something was telling me that’s what I needed to be doing and something happened. It was a switch,” he said.
With help from a kind businessman, Arthur began painting and ended up in Miami during Art Basel week last year.
Before he knew it, he was asked to show his work at a party at a private airport hanger.
“We get out to the airport hanger and I set up the pieces and before I knew it, I sell them all, I sell them all,” he said.
Since then, Arthur has donated his work to charity, and now big name celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and more have his “money” inspired artwork.
This year Arthur is back during Art Week showing at the Setai Wednesday, December 5th at 8 p.m. His paintings are priced at numbers he can’t even believe.
“ I’ve got some for $150,000, $50,000 and $20,000 and they are all selling.
This all happened in a year. It’s crazy. I feel very blessed and grateful,” Arthur said tearing up.