The forger Beltracchi: how to make a painting forgery

29 September, 2019
Forger Wolfgang Beltracchi now paints under his real name, after decades of selling fake paintings to galleries around the world.

Wolfgang Beltracchi is considered one of the most daring forgers of recent decades. In 2011 he found himself convicted by a German court of law for infringement in connection with 14 paintings sold for a total of US $ 45 million, the news shocking and destabilizing the art market. Beltracchi has since confessed to forging more than 300 works by well-known artists, including André Derain, Max Ernst, Max Pechstein and Fernand Léger.


Beltracchi was released from prison in June 2015 and painted again, but under his name. He does exhibitions and his paintings sell for between 250 and 000 Euros pieces. - still cheaper than his fakes, which he sold millions of Euros.


Ethics, the art market and how to be a good forger.

(Interview for a newspaper in Venice)


Journalist: Considering your past, who buys your paintings?

Wolfgang beltracchi : I make it a rule to have sold my paintings before they are finished. I don't have a market in the strict sense of the word, because the big auction houses stay away, even though we've had a really good relationship for 20 to 30 years.
Obviously they didn't know the paintings were forgeries.


I am not one of the supporters of the art market - it has a mafia-like structure. The reality is that my paintings hang next to those of Richter or Warhol, and I don't know who. I often think of people like Baselitz who hung his paintings upside down for 50 years and was a mediocre painter, which he admits himself. He always wanted to be a true painter, but lacked the necessary talent.


What do you think of great contemporary artists like Jeff Koons ?
Artists like him are factories and you owe it to yourself to use quotes when talking about "great" artists.


Was your factory a fake factory?
No, it was not a factory because I painted individual pictures and I never made copies, only unique pieces starting from a certain context, with a certain technique, by telling a certain story.
Artists like Jeff Koons, but also Ai Weiwei, and many others, are promoted by big art dealers and everyone is making tons of money. It is a market, but it has no originality.
However, in my opinion, what is not honest is that they make people - the man in the street - believe that these works are unique and rare, and of course, that is absolutely not true. They deceive people, swindle them and make them invest their money in something very vague. But hey, they've been benefiting from this system for 40 years ...
It is true that I took advantage of it, but I would never want to be part of this system again, under any circumstances.


Your paintings now bear your name, but it seems that your methods have not changed?

Yes, but I no longer have to respect the time limits. If a false date of 1914 it is imperative to respect what was done at the time; I have to ignore everything that has been done afterwards. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the fake board creation process.
After studying a painter, I know what he has eaten, I can smell his food. It's like the "Method Acting", in fact I call it the" Method Painting ", it is a method which requires a complete immersion in the life of the character, in this case, of the artist. We identify with an artist as an actor to the character he has to play.


In addition to this total immersion, what are the qualities of a good forger?
He must be an art historian who is a restorer of works, he must be an artist who has scientific knowledge.
My father was a church painter and from the age of 12 I went to churches with him after school. Together we restored the canvases and the murals. At 17 I could paint any picture. I also studied anatomical drawing and sculpture.


Some titanium paint you used for "Red drawing with horses" fromHeinrich Campendonk caused your fall ...
That day I had no white zinc and used ready-made white, in which there was very little titanium, but it was not stated on the label.
The truth is, I am one of the greatest forgers that ever existed, and that I am part of the history of art.
My works are exhibited incognito in many museums.
For example, there are a lot of my paintings in Japan, because in the 80s the Japanese bought a lot in Paris and London, and they bought a lot of my paintings. There are also at least a hundred art books in which my paintings are published.


Are there still people who buy your fake paintings without knowing it?
I only sold to a dozen big art dealers and auction houses. We told our customers and they could have informed theirs. We told them they could return the paintings to us. Of course without expressly indicating which ones. We told them, "Everything you bought from us was wrong."
Well, they didn't react at all. There is none NOT ONLY ONE who returned a painting to us and reimbursed his client ...

We immediately see where the real crooks are in the art world.

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