This month, the German Wolfgang Beltracchi, 60, will begin his six year sentence in prison for counterfeiting 14 paintings by six famous artists including Heinrich Campendonk, Fernand Léger, and Max Ernst. These fraudulent paintings caused damages of approximately $45 million. In a SPIEGEL interview, Beltracchi confessed to creating counterfeit works of around 50 different artists, but refused to provide many details.
Beltracchi’s forgery career began in the 1970’s when he created “unpainted works by old masters, and late Jugendstil and Expressionists” and sold them at flea markets. Beltrachhi claimed in an interview that he could put as many as 1,000-2,000 forgeries on the art market due to high demand. He even fooled Steve Martin, the American comedian, by inventing the “Knops” and “Jägers” art collections which were thought to be lost.
In 2008, Beltracchi’s operation came to a halt when he used a paint containing titanium white, but didn’t know it because the tube was incorrectly marked. A Heinrich Campendonk painting was found to contain the substance, although it was not in use at the time of the painting’s alleged origin.
Beltracchi’s wife received a 4-year term, her sister a suspended 21-month sentence, and friend Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus, 5 years.
Read the full article Ringleader reveals he faked many more works
Thanks to Kristina Bauer for her assistance with this post.