Here's a link to the CBS "60 Minutes" segment on art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi. The German fraudster tells interviewer Bob Simon that he knew what he was doing was wrong, he did not feel guilty for defrauding collectors, and used faked 'archival photographs' to support fake collecting history.
Here's a review ("60 Minutes" Recap) by Tammie Edenshaw of CMR (Current Movie Reviews):
Bob Simon brings the next story about Wolfgang Beltracchi, a con artist whose paintings are remarkable works of forgery. They are the ideas of a man whose visions are what he feels the master painters would have done or may have lost. His career has encompassed more than forty years and earned him millions. During the interview, Beltrachhi shows how he forges Max Ernst by painting on a wooden bridge outside his home. What is spectacular about this man is not the fact he “copies” famous works of art, but that he “channels” the artist and creates new works, which are his own, but passed off as those of a famous artist. He is probably one of the most exhibited painters in the world but was busted in 2010 but white paint which had titanium white. His downfall has turned the art world on his head as auction houses are being sued for endorsing the forgeries. Experts are now unsettled to the point of no longer rendering opinions of authentication. Beltracchi is now painting under his own name as he faces millions in lawsuits.
Dawn Levesque on Liberty Voice writes in "Wolfgang Beltracchi and the Biggest Art Scandal" that:
It is said that Wolfgang Beltracchi painted artworks by Raoul Duffy, Max Ernst, Georges Braque and Fernand Leger, along with other 20th century Surrealists and Expressionists. Beltracchi did not copy the paintings but passed off his own paintings in what he believed the real artist might have painted. These paintings became “newly discovered masterpieces” by 20th century artists. He expertly forged the artist’s painting style so flawlessly that no one was the wiser. In hindsight, according to modern art expert, Ralph Jentsch, it was due to the formidable desire to believe. Jentsch affirms, that in the world of art, connoisseurship and origins can go astray in the “frenzy of excitement over a new find.” Beltracchi also created artwork that once existed but had been missing for years. He conned even the finest art connoisseurs by working with paint and canvases from the appropriate period. In addition, he went so far as to produce realistic, time-worn dealer labels. Then, came the story to accompany the forged artwork. His wife, Helene claimed that her deceased grandfather, Werner Jägers had hidden his fine art collection away prior to World War II in a country home near Cologne. Subsequently, the collection was bequeathed to her, and according to Beltracchi, that is how he came into possession of the undiscovered artworks by renowned artists. To add integrity to the story, the Beltracchis presented a credible old black and white photo of Helene personating her grandmother, posed in front of canvases from the alleged “Jägers collection.”
In August 2010, Berlin’s art fraud branch conducted their biggest operation, and police teams seized paintings, the Beltracchis and their accomplices. However, with the lack of evidence at their trial, the judge terminated the proceedings, and the Beltracchis jail terms were reduced. A top forensic art analyst, Jamie Martin, is one expert that acknowledges that Wolfgang Beltracchi’s fakes are very credible, and some of the best counterfeits he has seen in his profession. He believes that if forensic analysts had inspected the paintings more thoroughly that maybe Beltracchi would have been exposed much earlier. However, that does not raise the spirits of those who have been prosecuted, including auction houses, galleries and experts, for selling Beltracchi fakes. At Beltracchi’s trial, the prosecuting attorney stated that he had produced 36 counterfeit artworks, bought for $46 million. Spanning four decades, it has been estimated that Beltracchi, Helene and their accomplices made $22 million on their art fraud. Even though authorities have charged Beltracchi with 36 works, he claims that there may be over 300 counterfeit paintings still in circulation. In truth, what is considered the “biggest art scandal of all time is not finished. German police have only uncovered 60 fraudulent paintings of Wolfgang Beltracchi since the trial, with an undetermined quantity amount still in circulation.