Menu Film Forum
PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

BELTRACCHI The Art of Forgery

12:302:404:507:159:30

Through Tuesday, September 1

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARNE BIRKENSTOCK 

60 Minutes called Wolfgang Beltracchi a “con man of epic proportions” and dubbed him and his wife Helene, “the Bonnie and Clyde of the art world.” 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.

GERMANY • 2014 • 93 MINS. • IN GERMAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES • KIMSTIM

Reviews

“Beltracchi amassed a fortune after years of forging and selling hundreds of fake paintings. Arne Birkenstock’s documentary allows us to observe his immensely meticulous process, such as his accounting for the amount of dust within the borders of the canvases.”
– Wes Greene, Slant 

“CRITICS’ PICK! PROVOCATIVE. The filmmakers…present the clash between Beltracchi’s views and those of the art-world cognoscenti as an opportunity for an enlightening meditation on the meaning of art and how that meaning gets lost (perhaps) through high-profile financial transactions… (The film) makes us question not only art, but the experts who claim to understand it best.”
– Amy Brady, Village Voice

“Without a doubt he is the biggest forger of our times.”
– Vanity Fair

“A highly enjoyable look at a career spent duping the art world. Offers plenty of behind-the-scenes secrets.  Walks us through the tricks of his trade, in this case buying a genuine but worthless old painting at a flea market and using the signs of authenticity on the canvas to bolster his illusion.  This process is fascinating.”
– John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

Listen

Loading the player ...

BELTRACCHI: Q & A with filmmaker Arne Birkenstock and art critic/author Blake Gopnik.

Recorded August 19, 2015
BELTRACCHI The Art of Forgery