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Banjo playing funnyman and art accumulator Steve Martin must be getting pretty small right about now.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, police in Cologne, Germany said Martin unwittingly bought and sold a forged copy of Landscape With Horses, a 1915 painting by German-Dutch modernist artist Heinrich Campendonk. Martin is not suspected of any wild and crazy misbehavior.

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The switcheroo could be Germany's biggest art swindle to date. Martin plunked down $850,000 (€700,000) for the work in July of 2004. Insiders consider this a bargain, but I wouldn't know. I had to buy tube socks that week. Martin put the painting on the auction block in 2006 and took a loss when a Swiss businesswoman brought it home for a mere €500,000. Martin told the New York Times Arts Beat art blog, "It wasn't clear that it was a fake until after Christie's had sold the picture – it was a long time after that, that it became known."

The counterfeit is considered the work of Wolfgang Beltracchi, the accused leader of a multimillion-dollar forgery ring. The carbon copy Campendonk is said to be one of forty-four lookalike paintings Beltracchi and his gang (wife Helene, her sister Jeanette and accomplice Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus) are accused of pawning off over the past ten years.

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Comments

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa June 1, 2011 @ 10:12 a.m.

The thing about art by low-talent hacks is other low-talent hacks can easily forge it.

A big part of me wants to applaud Wolfgang Beltracchi for pointing out so dramatically the idiocy of paying $850,000 for an easily copied painting.

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Scott Marks June 1, 2011 @ 10:29 a.m.

I'd pay anything for an original fake Elmyr de Hory.

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Colonna June 3, 2011 @ 12:47 p.m.

I'd love to find a Derwatt forgery - wonders if Wim Wenders has an "American Friend" to help me find one.

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