Forgers Who Conned the Heck Out of the Art World

The art world, like any other field, is filled with crooks and snakes looking to pull a fast one on unsuspecting dealers. Sometimes, the dealers themselves are diligent, and don’t do their research prior to buying the painting. It is estimated that nearly half of the art sold in the international market may be forged. Some of the people behind these acts have been found, but others are still out there doing their thing. Here are five forgers who conned the heck out of the art world.

1. John Myatt

John Myatt is said to have created over 200 forgeries of famous 18th and 20th century painters. He began his career by selling “genuine fakes” at £150 each. However, when one of his clients returned and said he sold a fake painting for £25,000, Myatt and the pair decided to join forces, and make forgery a full-time business. The duo was arrested in 1999 then sentenced to one year in prison for conspiracy to defraud. Today, about 120 of Myatt’s fake paintings still remain in the world.

2. Wolfgang Beltracchi

Wolfgang Beltracchi is one of the most famous and richest art forgers in history. The gifted painter perfected his craft by spending years studying the work and styles of the painters who he copied. Instead of mimicking an existing painting, Beltracchi chose to paint a picture that looked like the artist would have painted in his lifetime. His wife was in on the scheme as well; she often posed as a seller auctioning off “family pieces.” The entire ruse came tumbling down when he created a Campendonk painting using titanium white paint, which would not have existed at the time it would have been created.

3. Yves Chaudron

Yves Chaudron was a French forger who was said to have made six copies of the Mona Lisa or “La Gioconda” as it was known back then, which he sold to rich prospective buyers. At the time, the painting was famous, but not on a worldwide scale. The painting was stolen in 1911 and remained missing for two years before being rediscovered two years later at the bottom of a trunk. Rumors say that the painting they found was one of the six forgeries. Some people even say that Yves Chaudron never even existed!

4. Reinhold Vasters

Reinhold Vasters was an accomplished German goldsmith who won prizes for his own work such as the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. It is speculated by historians that he turned to forging as a way to support his family following the death of his wife. Vasters specialized in faking Renaissance jewelry, with many of his works showing up in the Rothschild collection. Many of his forgeries didn’t show up until 60 years after his death, like at the Met Museum whose curators discovered approximately 45 of Vasters’ fakes.

5. Tom Keating

Unlike the previously mentioned artists, Tom Keating used his forgery skills in order to expose the greedy ways of shady art dealers who were often looking to make a quick buck. He planted “time bombs” with rude comments painted on the canvas in lead white before the painting began. He also included some obvious things that a respectful art dealer would notice. By the time he was arrested in 1977, Keating had produced over 2,000 pieces in the style of one hundred artists.


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