Wolfgang Beltracchi spent 36 years painting and selling fake works by famous artists without anyone noticing. Will modern history's most successful forger now manage to make as much money with his own paintings?
He made millions with the works he forged, going undetected for decades. He was finally exposed in 2010: A chemical analysis demonstrated that the paint used on one of his forgeries "Rotes Bild mit Pferden" (Red Picture with Horses), which was supposed to be a 1914 work by Heinrich Campendonk, did not exist yet in that year.
Beltracchi admitted to producing hundreds of fakes, presented as works by major artists such as Max Ernst, Fernand Léger and Max Pechstein. He was sentenced to jail in 2011.
Art room9, a gallery in Munich, is now showing his own paintings for the first time. The name of the exhibition, "FREIHEIT" (FREEDOM) not only refers to Beltracchi's recent release from prison in January 2015, but also to his newly acquired liberty to paint without the stylistic constraints of the masters he was forging.
Referring to the critical reaction garnered by the works created during the forger's career, with claims "that he had painted the most beautiful Molzahn, the most exciting Campendonk, the most mysterious forest of Max Ernst," Curtis Briggs, the owner of the gallery, declared in a press statement: "I see in his works important stimuli for contemporary art and through his unique, pictorial skills, he has created his own genre."
Writing about his personal style, Beltracchi observes that it offers "the connection to all paintings from the past already created, paintings currently being created and ones to be expected in the future."
Notwithstanding the claims, several paintings of the exhibition are tributes to masters of the 20th century such as Paul Gauguin and Max Ernst.
The exhibition starts on May 8 and runs through October 23, 2015.