The Con Artist: A multimillion dollar art scam:
If you are going to be a thief and a conman, be the best that you can be.
That is exactly what Wolfgang Beltracchi was, unquestionable, unequivocal the absolute best art impersonator in the world and he did it all with a brush.
Most people including myself never hear of Wolfgang Beltracchi before I read about him. He just happens to be a master artist and conman all wrapped into one, the world has ever know.
He sold his forgeries of famous painters to the most knowledgeable people in the art world, got away clean and did it for nearly 40 years without getting caught.
His copies/forgeries made their way into museums, galleries, and private collections throughout the world.
What sets Wolfgang apart from the rest of the crooks in the art world, he didn’t use a computer or any type of copying device, he did everything by hand.
Connoisseurs and dealers acknowledge that Beltracchi is the most successful forger they ever ran across only because he fooled the best of the best and went virtually undetected for 4 decades.
He could do Rembrandt, Leonardo, Bellini or any other painter in the world with easy and nonchalantly.
“The Wolf” of the art world took exceptional measures not to get caught down to the smallest detail that only he could understand. He was a “master of his fake art”.
Beltracchi was on the top of his game, living the life of luxury with his wife and accomplice Helene. They had several mansions spread around Europe, a sea going vessel, trips around the world and whatever else they desired.
One of his most lucrative sales was a Max Ernst that brought him $7 million. All in all it is calculated that “The Bonnie and Clyde” of the art world made about 46 million dollars before getting the necks slammed into their easels.
As good and thorough as The Wolf was, what brought him down was not an error on his part but a 5.00 item and a slip up by a Dutch paint manufacturer part who he bought his supplies from. They neglected to list one all of the components of the paint he used on one of his pieces that stood out under an examination with a microscope.
Jamie Martin an expert in the field of forged art that examined some of The Wolf’s works with the help of modern technology using a high powered microscope and detected the forgery. He scraped a sliver of paint off of a painting by The Wolf that was smaller than the width of a human hair and detected the discrepancy that finally brought The Wolf and his accomplish to their knees.
In the trial that followed The Wolf was sentenced to six years in a German prison and is wife Helene to four.
The chaos they created throughout the art world is immeasurable. Galleries and auction houses who vouched for his forgeries have been sued for multimillion of dollars by the collectors who bought them.
It has become so bad that not even the “crem dala crem” of art world’ experts will stick out their neck and vouch for the authenticity of one of The Wolf’s works fearing the possibility of it being another forgery. He has created chaos in the heart, minds and pocket books of the best art dealers in the world.
In a sense, this is a man that I admire. He held up the best art dealers and museums in the world without a gun or a mask, just with his natural talents and cunningness and got away with it. No one got killed or physically injured.
Too bad he got caught. If a person doesn’t know the difference between the real thing and a forgery, what is the difference. It is all about ego and prestige.