Wolfgang Beltracchi is a well-known and previously convicted art forger. Beltracchi is also the most recent member of the non-fungible token (NFT) creators club. The German faker of fine arts has previously served prison time for his crimes but is putting his skills to good use with a digital art collection.
Artist Wolfgang Beltracchi has a long history of creating paintings for high-end clients worldwide. But, not the way most artists do. The notable difference is that Beltracchi spent decades forging works from history’s greatest artists and collected an estimated $40 million in the years between 1980 and 2011.
During that time, he specialized in recreating works by Heinrich Campendonk, a German expressionist artist. Eventually, his nomadic life as a high-end art forger came to an end, and he was sent to prison for six years in 2011. Freed in 2015, Beltracchi has been barred from exhibiting or selling his art in most galleries or museums, so an NFT collection was his only real option to show his work.
Beltracchi recreating, not copying, famous works
The project, dubbed “The Greats,” is a collection of 4,608 NFTs recreating seven of the most valuable paintings in the world. The first painting to be featured is a digital clone of the “Salvator Mundi”, thought to have been painted by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci between 1499-1510. The painting has had a tumultuous history after being mistaken for a copy for the last 500 or so years before the truth was uncovered in 2011. Most scholars agree that the work is a da Vinci, but some still believe he merely assisted whoever actually painted it.
According to the collection’s website, “The Greats” is divided into over 30 individual series based on 7 different eras in art history. The collections consist of a total of 4,608 original digital artworks.” Other masters that Beltracchi will channel include Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
The collection is laid out for viewing inside a digital museum accompanied by soothing piano music. Strolling through the gallery allows you to view numerous different interpretations of the Salvator Mundi created by Beltracci. Some are very classical and closely mirror the original. Some feature Jesus sporting a Salvador Dali mustache while others reimagine him as a comic book character, Jerry Garcia, and a monk.
While the Salvator Mundi pieces are the only ones to be unveiled, the remaining works will be on sale by October 18. The sale will be in blind box format, meaning customers will pay a flat price and not know which version of which painting they will receive.
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