Steve Martin - Hollywood actor, author, and art collector - appears to be one of the victims of an art forgery operation that swindled buyers out of $48 million dollars.
In 2004 , Martin purchased what he believed to be Landschaft mit Pferden, or Landscape With Horses, by the German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk, from the Paris gallery Cazeau-Béraudière. The actor paid € 700,000 (roughly $850,000), which would have been considered a very good price for the painting.
In 2006, Martin sold the piece at a Christie's auction to a Swiss businesswoman for €500,000 - a two million euro loss.
The painting is now believed to be one of an estimated 59 forged paintings produced by a group of con artists led by Wolfgang Beltracchi, who investigators suspect created very convincing replicas of early 20th century paintings by Campendonk, Max Pechstein, Fernard Léger, Max Ernst and others. Beltracci, along with his wife and her sister, told buyers that the paintings were uncovered in the estate of Werner Jägers, a businessman and grandfather of the suspect sisters. Another suspect, an artist and friend of Beltracci, offered a simliar story that the paintings originated from the collection of his own grandfather.
Martin had the painting authenticated by a Campendonk expert before purchasing it from the Paris gallery. His most recent novel, An Object of Beauty, is set in the art world.
Source: Der Spiegel