Normally I am against deception, lying, and thievery of any sort. It is such a personal violation– wallet rape if you will.
But on occasion I will find theft to be fascinating. Even sexy. But only when it is a con so well crafted and so layered and so detailed as to be nearly perfect. It’s the elegance that draws me like a moth to a flame.
Like the one Wolfgang Beltracchi perpetrated.
You probably haven’t heard of him, but he’s probably the greatest art forger of all time. He can paint in virtually any artist’s style, and he has fooled countless art historians.
And made millions doing it.
And he got away with it for 40 years!
What he did was absolutely brilliant. He wouldn’t create copies of famous works. Oh no. He created brand new works in the styles of famous artists. Works that could have been lost in wars or looted or unearthed in someone’s hidden collection.
He would use pigments and paints that were specially vetted to be available at the time the artist painted. He would find old canvases in flea markets and clean them and reuse them. He (and his accomplice wife) created fake labels and back stories and created fake old photos on old paper showing the works.
No detail was overlooked. It was only by an oversight in labeling from a pigment company that tripped him up.
He was so successful that his forgeries hang in museums and are in art books and have been bought by collectors. Each and every one of his paintings is a masterpiece worthy of collecting. The only hiccup being he lied with his signatures.
It’s an utterly fantastic and fascinating story. You can read more here.
I guess I’m okay with his crimes because of the creative aspect. Not only was the con creative, but he created brilliant works of art.
And the victims were basically the uber rich. People who can afford multi million dollar paintings. Sure museums and galleries and historians were involved– which then trickles down eventually to the general populace. And of course there’s the deception over four decades which needs to be undone.
But I guess I don’t care.
He was so perfect and so precise that he fooled countless authenticators. For years. And anyone that good deserves kudos.
Besides, there are all sorts of tales in the art world about masterpieces that may or may not have actually been painted by students of the masters. Or unsigned works that may be masterpieces.
And again I say, “Who cares?” If the art is brilliant, and is beautiful then what does it matter who really painted it?
When you look at the Sistine Chapel, are you standing in awe or are you hunting for a signature??