Showing posts with label Beltracchi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beltracchi. Show all posts

February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014 - , No comments

Wolfgang Beltracchi, Art Forger: CBS Profiles German Fraudster, An "Evil Genius" and "Con Man"?

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.

November 5, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - , No comments

Kunsthaus Lempertz: The auction house used by the Beltracchi forgery gang, Cornelius Gurlitt, and for liquidating Jewish-owned art galleries during the Nazi-era

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Journalist Alison Smale wrote for The New York Times in Berlin in "Report of Nazi-Looted Trove Puts Art World in an Uproar" that the auction house Kunsthau Lempertz was surprised to discover more information about the million dollar Max Beckmann painting they had sold in 2011. These are the first three paragraphs of Ms. Smale's article:
BERLIN - There was no hint that the older man who called a couple of years back about selling a picture could be sitting on an unimaginable trove of art confiscated or banned by the Nazis. When the proffered work, "Lion Tamer" by the German artist Max Beckmann, was collected, the seller seemed to be a proper gentleman in Munich dispensing with a lone, dusty art gem at the end of his life. 
It was a "fantastic picture," recalled Karl-Sex Feddersen of the Cologne auction house Lempertz, who noted how pleased the auction house team was with the auction price: 864,000 euros, or $1.17 million. 
When he learned on Monday that the Beckmann seller, Cornelius Gurlitt, now 80, had reportedly sat on hundreds of works, including art by Picasso and Matisse, that were confiscated under the Nazis or sold cheaply by owners desperate to flee Hitler, Mr. Feddersen was amazed. "Imagine!" he said, envisaging seeing and selling such a collection.
According to Catherine Hinkley of Bloomberg, Beckmann's "Lion Tamer" belonged to Alfred Flechtheim who's heirs settled with Cornelius Gurlitt before the Lempertz auction in October 2011.

Kunsthaus Lempertz  is described as one of the leading art auction houses in Europe. This Cologne auction house is associated with another story covered in the ARCA blog: the Beltracchi forgery case. In October 2011, Catherine Hinkley reported for Bloomberg that the convicted forger Wolfgang Beltracchi had used the Kunsthaus Lempertz:
The Cologne auction house Kunsthaus Lempertz said in January that it had sold five of the forgers' works. The authenticity of all of them "was confirmed by leading experts and some of them were subsequently shown in a number of museums." 
"My colleagues and I, like the whole art market, were deceived by the highly skilled and professional operations of the forgers," Lempertz chief executive Henrick Hanstein wrote in a letter to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in July.
Beltracchi and his accomplices were sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling $14 million in forged paintings.

In this radio interview with the BBC on November 4, Clarence Epstein of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project explains the role of the Lempertz auction house in Cologne during the Nazi-era. Max Stern, Epstein explains, inherited a gallery established by his father in 1913 in Dusseldorf.
When Max Stern entered the scene in 1934 he had about one year before he started receiving letters from the Chamber of Fine Art in Germany advising him that due to his Jewish persuasion he was no longer permitted to transact as an art dealer. For the following three years, Max Stern was forced, under duress, to liquidate his family gallery and effectively consign the final pieces from the gallery and family collection to an auction house in Cologne, Germany, called Lempertz, which at that time was transacting what was called "Jew sales" for what was the final act of business of the Gallery Stern in that city.

July 5, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring/Summer 2012: Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel on "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times

Australian criminologist Duncan Chappell and Dr. Saskia Hufnagel write on "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the  "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times" in the Spring/Summer 2012 electronic issue of The Journal of Art Crime (now available by subscription).
Abstract: On the 27th of October 2011 the four persons accused of the ‘most spectacular’ art forgery case in German post-war history were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 21 months to 6 years. The accused were Wolfgang Beltracchi (61), the painter of the forged works; his wife Helene Beltracchi (53) and her sister Jeanette Spurzem (54) who helped him in various ways; and the ‘logistical expert’ in the case, Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus (68). Considering the financial damage the forger group had caused, the embarrassment of buyers, dealers, experts and auction houses, as well as the considerable publicity the trial incurred, this seemed a remarkably mild verdict. However, observing the way in which art forgers at large appear to be dealt with by the justice systems of various countries, it could be said that the case just confirms a reoccurring pattern of lenient sentencing. This article will examine the case and its repercussions.
Duncan Chappell is a lawyer, criminologist and former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. He is also the Chair of the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence in Policing and Security. Currently an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney he has researched and published on art crime as well as acting as an expert in art crime cases. His recent publications include Manacorda, S. and Chappell, D. Crime in the Art and Antiquities World. Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property (New York: Springer, 2011).

Saskia Hufnagel is a Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS), Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Her PhD studies were completed at the Australian National University (ANU) on the topic ‘Comparison of EU and Australian cross-border law enforcement strategies.’ Her current work focuses on comparing legal frameworks in Australia and the EU, particularly in the fields of mass gatherings, surface transport, maritime and aviation security. She conducts further research in the field of EU and Australian police cooperation and more specifically the policing of art crime. Her publications include 114 ‘Cross-border police co-operation: Traversing domestic and international frontiers’ (2011) Crim LJ 333 and she co-edited ‘Cross-border Law Enforcement - Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European, Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives’ (2011) Routledge. Saskia is a qualified German legal professional and accredited specialist in criminal law.

July 1, 2012

The Spring/Summer 2012 Issue of The Journal of Art Crime is now available to download by subscription

The PDF edition of the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime can now be downloaded by subscribers. This seventh issue is edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA.
 
Academic articles: "Bordering on Alchemy: A Nation of Counterfeiters" by Stephen Mihm; "Daubertizing the Art Expert" by John Daab; "Looting History: An Analysis of the Illicit Antiquities Trade in Israel" by Aleksandra Sheftel; "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times" by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel; and "The Forger's Point of View" by Thierry Lenain.

Regular columns: Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy on "When Photography Might be Illegal"; Ton Cremers on "Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?"; David Gill's Context Matters on "Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities"; and Noah Charney's Lessons from the History of Art Crime on "Mark Landis: the Forger Who Has Yet to Commit a Crime".

Editorial Essays: Joshua Knelman on "Headache Art"; Noah Charney on "Appendix on Forensics of Forgery Investigation"; and Noah Charney on "Art Crime in North America".

Reviews: Stuart George reviews "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg; David Gill reviews "Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum" by James Cuno; Catherine Schofield Sezgin reviews "Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art" by Joshua Knelman; Noah Charney reviews "The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century" by Aviva Briefel; and John Kleberg reviews "Leonardo's Lost Princess" by Peter Silverman with Catherine Whitney.

Extras: Noah Charney's interviews with George H. O. Abungu; Ernst Schöller; Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg; Ralph Frammolino and Jason Felch; Thierry Lenain; and a Q&A on "Art Crime in Canada".  

There is also a list of the 2012 ARCA Awards.

October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - ,, No comments

German Art Forger and Three Associates Sentenced to Total of 15 Years Jail

"An art forger and his three accomplices, who made at least 10 million euros ($14 million) by selling oil paintings they falsely attributed to famous artists, were today sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison by a court in Cologne," reports Catherine Hinkley for Bloomberg.com in "German Gang Jailed 15 Years Total for $14 Million Forged Ernst, Derains":
Dealers and collectors say confidence in the German art market has been shaken by the forgery scandal, described as the biggest ever in Germany, as art historians, museums and auction houses were duped by the fake pictures.
The defendants' "confessions" saved the state prosecution the cost of an extensive trial and "appearances that could have been embarrassing for some witnesses", reported Hinkley.
The forgers were only caught out when one buyer became suspicious and sent his picture to be examined by scientists. They discovered a paint color that had not existed at the time the work was supposed to have been produced. 
As many as 41 more paintings not included in the trial because of statutes of limitations may also be forgeries by Beltracchi. The scandal has also spawned a number of civil cases against dealers and auction houses, as well as the criminal trial. Kremer said today it is not the job of the court to try to uncover each forgery.
You may read previous posts on the ARCA blog here and here.