Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
Steve Martin Duped by German Art Forgers
Banjo playing funnyman and art accumulator Steve Martin must be getting pretty small right about now.
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.
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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