Modernism + Film: Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery

Modernism + Film: Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery




The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art screens Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery Thursday, October 20 as part of the museum's Modernism + Film series.

Dubbed as the "Bonnie and Clyde of the art world" by 60 minutes, Wolfgang Beltracchi and his wife, Helene, are known as one of the longest running and most profitable scam artists in all of art history. Beltracchi has become a name that outsmarted many art connoisseurs and collectors for over forty years. Beltracchi's paintings have been displayed in major museums and galleries all across the world. He would go on to create and sell hundreds of pieces which he claimed were painted by famous early 20th century masters.

What makes these forgeries truly one-of-a-kind is that they are never copied once-existing paintings, but produced works "in the style of" famous artists such as Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Heinrich Campendonk, André Derain and Max Pechstein. He was brilliant, not only as a painter but also as a conman. Using old canvases found at flea markets and matching paint pigments to their correct time period, Beltracchi's work would commence. 

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery is a subtle documentary, primarily in German and French. Directed by Arne Birkenstock, the son of the lawyer for the Beltracchi family, the film interviews Wolfgang, Helene, friends, family and art figures. The film portrays Beltracchi and his wife, before serving their jail sentence of six years (Wolfgang) and four years (Helene). The film poses an underlying question: "If a piece of artwork gives you pleasure, isn't that more important than the signature at the bottom?" Essentially it seems that credibility is what is really being sold. 

"Sometimes you see your own painting in a museum and you think, 'Damn, I'm in all these museums and no one knows it's mine." - Wolfgang Beltracchi


An event reception with a cash-only bar and free light bites begins at 6 p.m. in the Bechtler lobby followed by the presentation and film screening at 7 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Auditorium.


Tickets are $10 for the public, $8 for museum members and $5 for students (Student tickets may be purchased at the door or by phone. Must present student ID to claim). Buy Tickets online, tickets may also be purchased by phone at 704.353.9200 or at the admissions desk.

View the trailer for Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery below:

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