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Monday, January 2, 2012

TRUE SCALE OF ALLEGED GERMAN FORGERIES REVE


True scale of alleged German forgeries reve
Major auction houses and galleries have been caught up in Beltracchi’s fake art scam

By Julia Michalska, Charlotte Burns and Ermanno Rivetti. Market, Issue 230, December 2011
Published online: 05 December 2011

It was the biggest art forgery trial in Germany for decades but now it seems that the problems created by master forger Wolfgang Beltracchi and his gang are far from resolved. Last month, German police revealed a new, much longer list of alleged forgeries: 53 in total, of which only 14 were considered in the first criminal trial. It now appears that major international auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as well as London- and New York-based dealers Dickinson gallery, may have unknowingly sold some of the works on the list.

“It seems that almost the entire art world was caught out… The [forgeries] 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,” says James Roundell, the director of Dickinson gallery, adding: “I’m sure there will be more wreckage washed up on the shore before we see the end of this.”

Beltracchi, his wife Helene, her sister Jeanette and their business partner Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus were convicted of forgery and corruption in relation to 14 works of art at the Cologne regional court, and found guilty of selling forgeries of modern art masters from the fictitious “Werner Jägers” and “Wilhelm Knops” collections. A plea bargain saw the defendants receive reduced sentences. Beltracchi, the scam’s mastermind and painter, received the heaviest sentence of six years.

The release of the list, with an additional 39 works, shows that Bateaux à Collioure, around 1905, by André Derain, sold at Christie’s London for £2m in 2007, was a forgery (Christie’s cited the “Knops Collection” as its provenance). The auction catalogue shows an image of a so-called “Sammlung Flechtheim” label on the back of the work: the forgers faked stickers by Alfred Flechtheim, a renowned German art dealer in the 1920s, as proof of provenance. It was the discovery that Flechtheim had never produced these, or any, stickers that initially raised a red flag for investigators.


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