Wolfgang Beltracchi, the German art forger who was convicted of copying 14 paintings by six prominent artists, now claims his deception spread even further, Der Spiegel reported. Beltracchi, 61, told Der Spiegel that he forged the works of “some 50 artists,” and that the demand for the art was so high he could easily have sold “1,000 or 2,000 forgeries.”
The forger is currently serving six years in prison for counterfeiting well-known artists including Heinrich Campendonk, Fernand Léger and Max Ernst and raking in an estimated $45 million, or €34 million in profits from selling the works, BBC News reported. He was convicted in October 2011.
Beltracchi’s wife Helena, her sister Jeanette S., and a fourth accomplice named Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus were also convicted and are serving jail time, according to the National Post.
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“It seems that almost the entire art world was caught out,” James Roundell, the director of Dickinson gallery in London, said last fall, the New York Times reported. The paintings “have circulated widely over the years, passing through the hands of major auction houses, art dealers, experts in their field, and distinguished, knowledgeable private collectors.”
Beltracchi refused to name the exact number of paintings he has faked throughout his career, which began in the 1970s when he started out by creating “unpainted works by old masters, and later Jugendstil and Expressionists” and selling them at flea markets.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Beltracchi invented two art collections he called the “Knops” and “Jägers” collections, which were made up of modern works that were believed to have been lost. He made millions from eager collectors, including comedian and art collector Steve Martin, Der Spiegel reported.
The operation is considered the largest art fraud in Germany since the Second World War, The National Post reported.
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