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L’Affaire Beltracchi

Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm

The history of art has an unlimited quantity of fascinating forgers, from Van Meegeren who brought Vermeer back to life, to Elmer de Hory, the hero of Orson Welles’ documentary F for Fake. One could think that the development of investigating techniques such as X-rays, the analysis of pigments and the increased access to catalogues raisonnés through internet had put an end to these adventurers. That is far from the truth, as we can see in the Beltracchi affair which this book dissects. You take incompetent or vulnerable experts, naïve or corruptible art dealers, an auction house without a memory, and you have the perfect ingredients for this mystery. Wolfgang Fischer, born in 1951, the son of a modest church painter, who became Wolfgang Beltracchi by taking the name of his wife and accomplice, was thus able to dupe the most famous persons in the art world. Art historian Werner Spies, art dealer Marc Blondeau, gallery owners Dickinson, Malingue, Aittouarès or Knoedler were all drawn into his games. By forging paintings, and especially by inventing false genealogies and imaginary collections, Beltracchi went from petty jobs waiting on tables in a trip-tease joint, or writing scenarios every now and then to an unbelievable ‘career’. For thirty years he put out on the art market dozens of false works by the infamous Campendonk –the name that helped reveal the scandal-, by Max Ernst or Derain… When the case was heard very quickly in Cologne in 2011, Beltracchi was condemned but the harm was done. Reputations had been tarnished and museums polluted. In a very sensitive dossier, an interesting appendix traces the itinerary of the main paintings concerned. An investigation worthy of the most famous police…

L’Affaire Beltracchi by Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm, publishing house Jacqueline Chambon, 2013, 256 p., €24.

L’Affaire Beltracchi - Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm

Review published in the newsletter #300 - from 25 April 2013 to 1 May 2013

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