Directed by Arne Birkenstock • Documentary • With Wolfgang Beltracchi, Henrik Hanstein, Sofia Komarova • 2015 • 93 minutes
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 Leger, Heinrich Campendonk, Andre 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.
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... Beltracchi is an engaging rogue, a warm-hearted husband and father, and an impossibly self-confident artist. Full of witty dialogues, the film shows Beltracchi's incredible talent as a painter and reveals his expertise in forging paintings from the early 20th century, which were so masterfully done that art experts, museums and auction houses around the world were duped and exposed. The film is directed by the award-winning director Arne Birkenstock (CHANDANI AND HER ELEPHANT, SOUND OF HEIMAT: GERMANY SINGS).