Do you have a prized work of art in your collection somewhere, gathering dust and value? Better sell it before it turns out to be a fake. A German forger sentenced in October to six years in prison as the ringleader of a large-scale forgery operation said on Tuesday that he'd faked as many as 2,000 paintings beyond the 14 he originally pleaded guilty to forging. Wolfgang Beltracchi, who painted the Heinrich Campendonk work that fooled Steve Martin, told Der Spiegel on Tuesday he'd forged works by "about 50" artists. The news came out this morning, but until The New York Times' Artsbeat blog picked it up the story hadn't made its way into the mainstream U.S. press. Unfortunately, Beltracchi didn't offer a ton of detail as to which paintings he'd faked:
Speaking to the media for the first time since he was sentenced, Beltracchi refused to name the exact number of paintings he forged throughout his career, which he began in the 1970s by creating "unpainted works by old masters, and later Jugendstil and Expressionists" and selling them at flea markets. But during the interview with Spiegel, Beltracchi said that due to high demand, he could have easily put "1,000 or 2,000" forgeries on the art market.
There's still time to flip that old master or expressionist piece you've squirreled away before it turns out to be a Beltracchi. Of course, Beltracchi could be trolling everybody, too. He's already headed for prison, so he might as well try to solidify his reputation as the most prolific art forger ever.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.