Arne Birkenstock's Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery is a documentary about German painter and convicted fraudster Wolfgang Beltracchi who made millions of euros selling fake art. His forged paintings by artists such as André Derain, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, and Heinrich Campendonk, among many others, have made their way into museums, galleries, and private collections all over the world. But what makes Beltracchi an exceptional forger is that he didn't copy the paintings of great masters, but created new works which he imagined the artist might have painted or which might have gotten lost.
"For nearly 40 years the charming and effervescent Beltracchi produced hundreds of meticulous works of art, forgeries of early and mid-20th century artists, using old canvases and distressed frames scoured from flea markets and paints whose pigments he ground himself. Amazingly, he didn't reproduce known paintings, but, working in an artist's style, would create entirely new 'masterpieces.' A large Max Ernst that took him three days to produce could sell for $5 million. Beltracchi was put on trial in 2011, but readily admits that the handful of forgeries he was held accountable for are just the tip of the iceberg. Many others sit in some of the world’s greatest art museums and private collections. This documentary captures his unique personality: a bizarre mix of candor and cunning, insouciance and joie de vivre."Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery is now playing at Film Forum. Watch the trailer: