Beltracchi - The Art of Forgery

Beltracchi - Die Kunst der Fälschung

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A mesmerizing, thought-provoking yet surprisingly amusing documentary on the life and times of Wolfgang Beltracchi, who tricked the international art world for nearly 40 years by forging and selling paintings of early 20th-century masters. A larger-than-life personality who was responsible for the biggest art forgery scandal of the postwar era.

Beltracchi is an engaging rogue, a warm-hearted husband and father, and an impossibly self-confident artist who tells a journalist: “I can paint anything. Leonardo? Of course. But why? You couldn't sell it.” The fast-paced film is full of witty dialogues with Beltracchi and his wife, which give this fundamentally serious documentary a high entertainment value. It shows Beltracchi’s incredible talent as a painter and reveals his expertise in forging paintings from the early 20th century, which were so masterfully done that art experts, museums and auction houses around the world were duped and exposed.

“Without any doubt he is the biggest forger of our times” VANITY FAIR

Available versions:
52 min
90 min
For nearly 40 years, Wolfgang Beltracchi fooled the international art world and was responsible for the biggest art forgery scandal of the postwar era. An expert in art history, theory and painting techniques, he tracked down the gaps in the oeuvres of great artists – Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Heinrich Campendonk, André Derain and Max Pechstein, above all – and filled them with his own works. He and his wife Helene would then introduce them to the art world as originals.  

What makes these forgeries truly one-of-a-kind is that they are never mere copies of once-existing paintings, but products of Beltracchi’s imagination, works “in the style of” famous early 20th-century artists. With his forgeries, he fooled renowned experts, curators and art dealers. The auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s were hoodwinked, just like Hollywood star Steve Martin and other collectors throughout the world.  

It was ultimately Beltracchi’s own success that brought him down. Passed off as an original Heinrich Campendonk and regarded by specialists as a “key work of modernism,” Beltracchi’s “Red Painting with Horses, 1914” was sold at auction for a record 2.8 million Euros. But it was here that the master forger made the mistake that was to expose him...  

In “Beltracchi - The Art of Forgery”, Wolfgang and his wife Helene Beltracchi chat openly – and with great wit and charm – about their quixotic adventures in an overheated art world ruled by blind greed, and in which apparently no one has an answer to the question as to what is an original, and what is a forgery...

    Key Information

  • Documentary
  • 2013
  • 01:30:00
  • Germany
  • Fruitmarket Kultur und Medien, Tradewind Pictures in co-production with Senator Entertainment and Telepool
  • Made for Cinema
  • General Audience

    Cast & Crew

  • Arne Birkenstock
  • Wolfgang & Helene Beltracchi
  • Arne Birkenstock, Helmut G. Weber, Thomas Springer
  • Arne Birkenstock
  • Marcus Winterbauer


  • Fine arts
  • Biography/Notable personalities

    Language versions

  • German
  • French
  • English
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Dutch
  • Danish
  • Swedish
  • Finnish
  • Norwegian
  • Spanish


  • Deutscher Filmpreis - German Film Award (2014)

    Deutscher Filmpreis (won) Best Documentary Feature (LOLA Award)

    Related News

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    • Beltracchi-trail...
    • Trailer, English
    • 00:02:15


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