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. Arne Birkenstock’s BELTRACCHI: THE ART OF FORGERY takes into the mind and inner circle of an a artistic rogue. Amazingly, Beltracchi 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 easily fetch $5 million. Beltracchi was put on trial in 2011, but he readily admits that the handful of forgeries for which he was held accountable are just the tip of the iceberg. Many others remain on the walls of some of the world’s greatest art museums and private collectors. Director Arne Birkenstock, whose father was Beltracchi’s attorney, uses his unprecedented access to the controversial forger to capture his unique personality: a bizarre mix of candor and cunning, insouciance and joie de vivre. Birkenstock joins us for a conversation on what makes great art, how Beltracchi was able to deceive art experts, collector and museum curators and whether or not he is a great artist.
BELTRACCHI: THE ART OF FORGERY will have a one-week engagement, August 21-27 at the Laemmle’s Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills with show times 12pm, 2:20, 7:40, 10.
Director Arne Birkenstock will participate in Q&A’s after the 7:40 screenings at the Saturday-Monday, August 22-24.
“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