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.
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).
"Without any doubt he is the biggest forger of our times.” —Vanity Fair
"Beltracchi's work on a piece in the style of Max Ernst; this Ernst-Beltracchi" could easily pass for one of the Surrealist's better 'forest' paintings." —The Hollywood Reporter
"There’s something thrillingly Robin Hoodish about an art forger like Wolfgang Beltracchi." —Grolschfilmworks.com
"BELTRACCHI not only illustrates the brilliant conman's career but also tells the sweetest love story ever told." —Dustin Chang, Twitchfilm
"Beltracchi amassed a fortune after years of forging and selling hundreds of fake paintings. Arne Birkenstock's documentary allows us to observe his immensely meticulous process, such as his accounting for the amount of dust within the borders of the canvases." —Wes Greene, Slant
"CRTICS' PICK! PROVOCATIVE. The filmmakers...present the clash between Beltracchi's views and those of the art-world cognoscenti as an opportunity for an enlightening meditation on the meaning of art and how that meaning gets lost (perhaps) through high-profile financial transactions... (The film) makes us question not only art, but the experts who claim to understand it best." —Amy Brady, Village Voice
"Mr. Beltracchi is an agreeable raconteur, and is much more knowledgeable than a mere armchair art historian." —Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
"Like in the best cowboy films, THE ART OF FORGERY's bad guys are far more compelling than the good. It's hard to resist the Beltracchis' charm, their bohemian lifestyle - even their chic hippie wardrobes are endearing. As a character portrait, Birkenstock's film is fascinating." —Benjamin Sutton, Hyperallergic
"Recommended!" —Video Librarian