The Art of Forgery
German Film Academy Award for Best Documentary Film 2014
Cinema Documentary, Germany 2014, 96’
For nearly 40 years, Wolfgang Beltracchi fooled the international art world and was responsible for the biggest art forgery scandal of the postwar era. An expert in art history, theory and painting techniques, he tracked down the gaps in the oeuvres of great artists – Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Heinrich Campendonk, André Derain and Max Pechstein, above all – and filled them with his own works. He and his wife Helene would then introduce them to the art world as originals.
What makes these forgeries truly one-of-a-kind is that they are never mere copies of once-existing paintings, but products of Beltracchi’s imagination, works “in the style of” famous early 20th-century artists. With his forgeries, he fooled renowned experts, curators and art dealers. The auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s were hoodwinked, just like Hollywood star Steve Martin and other collectors throughout the world. It was ultimately Beltracchi’s own success that brought him down. Passed off as an original Heinrich Campendonk and regarded by specialists as a “key work of modernism,” Beltracchi’s “Red Painting with Horses, 1914” was sold at auction for a record 2.8 million Euros. But it was here that the master forger made the mistake that was to expose him...
In “Beltracchi - The Art of Forgery”, Wolfgang and his wife Helene Beltracchi chat openly – and with great wit and charm – about their quixotic adventures in an overheated art world ruled by blind greed, and in which apparently no one has an answer to the question as to what is an original, and what is a forgery...
“Without any doubt he is the biggest forger of our times".
"A highly enjoyable look at career spent duping the art world. This film has plenty of Stateside appeal.“.
The Hollywood Reporter
"A witty impostor comedy, debunking amusing“.
"He deceived renowned experts, museum directors and auction houses
in Paris, London, Cologne, Berlin and New York." Financial Times
With Wolfgang & Helene Beltracchi
Written & directed by Arne Birkenstock
DoP – Marcus Winterbauer
Editor – Katja Dringenberg
Music – Dürbeck & Dohmen
Producers – Arne Birkenstock, Thomas Springer, Helmut G. Weber
Co-Producers – Helge Sasse, Thomas Weymar
Produced by Fruitmarket Arts & Media and Tradewind Pictures
In Co-Production with Telepool, Senator Film Production and Global Screen
Funded by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Distributed by Edition Senator
Distributed in the US by KimStim