Showing posts with label German forgers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label German forgers. Show all posts

February 18, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Jonathan Keats' FORGED: What Is Belief? Lothar Malskat (1913-1988)

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

The artist who copyrighted his mind in 2003, Jonathan Keats, questions the concept of originality in his new book, FORGED: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age (December 2012, Oxford University Press).
‘We need to examine the anxieties that forgeries elicit in us now.  We need to compare the shock of getting duped to the cultivated angst evoked by legitimate art, and we need to recognize what the art establishment will never acknowledge: No authentic modern masterpiece is as provocative as a great forgery.  Forgers are the foremost artists of our age.’
I will leave it to our readers with a background in art history and visual arts to agree or disagree with Keats' premise (which he elaborates on in an introductory essay). What I particularly enjoyed were the chapters devoted to six 20th century forgers. Keats nicely sums up the works of these forgers, their explanations for breaking the law (or not), and discusses the impact these forgeries have had on the art market. Here on the blog this week I'll showcase each of these forgers and add a bit of online research that I couldn't refrain myself from doing as I read FORGED.

Keats highlights Lothar Malskat, a German restorer, who faked a mural in a damaged 14th century church after World War II; Alceo Dossena, an Italian sculptor, who created antiqued marbles in the 1920s; Han van Meegeren, a successful Dutch portrait artist, who forged six paintings by Vermeer and sold a couple of paintings to the Nazis; Eric Hebborn, forger of old master drawings from the 1960s until his murder in 1996; Elmyr de Hory who forged out of his studio in Ibiza until his suicide in 1976; and Tom Keating, former housepainter and restorer, who called his forgery work in the 1950s and 60s an act of socialism.

What is Belief? Lothar Malskat (1913-1988)

In May 1952, Lothar Malskat walked into a police station in Lübeck to report that he had forged the  supposedly restored murals in Marienkirche (the Lutheran St. Mary’s church).  Eight months earlier, the 13th and 14th century frescoes had been celebrated at the church’s 700th anniversary. In 1942, the fires from the Allied bombing of Lübeck on Palm Sunday had ‘peeled five centuries of whitewash off the walls, exposing enormous Gothic frescoes painted when the building was erected.  Dubbed “the miracle of Marienkirche,” the discovery was sheltered under improvised roofing until the war ended and structural repairs could begin.” In 1948, Lothar and his boss, Dietrich Fey, had been commissioned to restore the murals.

Lothar claimed that ‘He’d faked the medieval paintings on Fey’s orders, he said, and he was confessing because “that crook Fey” had treated him unfairly.’ Neither the police nor the media believed him. He hired an attorney and confessed to making phony Picassos and Rembrandts. The police searched his house and found evidence that led to an investigation commission and a trial.  Lothar and Fey were sentenced to eighteen months and twenty months, respectively, in jail.

At Marienkirche, the forged murals in the choir were plastered over but the forgeries in the nave – which Malskat had quickly repainted on the reprimed brick surface – are referred to in guidebooks as Goth frescoes with no mention of Malskat or the forgery conviction.

As for Malskat, before he could serve his jail sentence he fled to Sweden for a few years. Keats writes:
He decorated Stockholm's Tre Kroner Restaurant in the 14th-century Gothic style and recycled his Schleswig turkeys in ersatz murals for the Royal Tennis Court. Extradited to Germany in late 1956, he served his jail term and then faded into obscurity, eking out a living as a self-styled expressionist for his remaining thirty-two years.
Keats adds in a footnote:
Obscurity, not anonymity. A couple of years before Malskat died, the German author Günter Grass (a Lübeck resident) revisited the Marienkirche scandal in a novel called The Rat.
Book reviewer Malcolm Boyd for the Los Angeles Times in 1987 describes Grass' character Malskat as 'an honest man who forged cathedral artworks.'

FORGED was published two months ago by Oxford University Press. I purchased my copy from City Lights Books of San Francisco where Keats spoke in January. You can also read Keats on this subject in Art & Antiques here.

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.

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.

November 11, 2010

German Forgers May Have Used Catalogs of Jewish Art Dealer


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

German forgers may have used the records of a long-dead Jewish art dealer as provenance for as many as 35 second-tier French and German expressionist paintings sold through auction houses in Cologne and London which may have defrauded art collectors of more than 15 million Euros over the past two decades.

The alleged forgery activities of a German couple and their extended family and friends are detailed in a report in Der Spiegel with additional analysis by Mark Durney at Art Theft Central in October. Although only one painting has been confirmed as a fake, according to Der Spiegel, all of the paintings from two fictitious collections that claim to have been purchased through the same art dealer in Germany in the 1920 are now suspect. Many of the paintings are stamped with a fraudulent sticker trying to identify the artworks as from the Galerie Flechtheim.

Provenance of these suspected paintings may have been lifted from sales and exhibition catalogues from a Dusseldorf art gallery owned by the Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim who fled Nazi Germany when his business was confiscated in 1933. Der Spiegel reported that parts of his collection and documents from his business were lost. Flechtheim, who died in London in 1937, represented Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Paul Klee, George Grosz, and Max Beckmann and other painters in the 1920s who were later deemed by Nazi officials to have produced “degenerate art”. Galerie Alfred Flechtheim held exhibitions of works by André Durain, Juan Gris, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Paul Cézanne in 1929; and Edzard Dietz, August Renoir, Fernand Léger, Max Beckmann in 1928. A 1926 portrait of Alfred Flechtheim by Otto Dix hangs in the Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (see image above).

Flechtheim’s heirs have tired to recover about 100 paintings by artists such as Picasso, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Vincent van Gogh from German and American museums. In July 2010, the Fleichtheim heirs claimed a portrait of the actress Tilla Durieux by Oskar Kokoschka from the Museum Ludwig in Cologne (Zeit Online, translated, “He Was His Own Best Client Client,” July 8, 2010). Flechtheim’s gallery was taken over by the Nazis in 1933. Alex Vömel, the new ‘owner’, sold the Durieux portrait from Flechtheim’s private collection in 1934 for a price below the 1931 insurance value, according to the heirs’ lawyer, who also claim that there’s no record that Flechtheim received any proceeds from the sale.

In another litigation news, the heirs of George Grosz are pursuing the restitution of paintings they claim Grosz left on consignment with Flechtheim before Grosz also fled Germany in 1933.