I pledge not to use The Jerk in the following story. Steve Martin has been named as one of the victims in an impressive international forgery scheme. Martin paid $850,000 in July 2004 for Landschaft mit Pferden (Landscape With Horses). Later he sold it at a loss of 200,000 euros to a Swiss businesswoman. It was then found to be a fake.
Martin purchased the painting from the Paris gallery Cazeau-Béraudière and later sold the painting through Christie’s. The question is why sell the painting at such a loss. The assumption is that over $200,000 is just not much of a concern for Martin. However, investigators are likely to ask if he had reason to suspect a forgery. Police believe the forgery is part of the work of Wolfgang Beltracchi, Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus and two sisters. It may have involved dozens of paintings.
What I find fascinating is that a leading gallery in Paris, an expert hired by Martin, and Christie’s were all taken in by the forgery, which must have been a remarkable felonious work. Now there are likely to be question of not just criminal but potential civil liability.
The sale and resale of just 14 of the forgeries is believed to have cost $48.6 million.
By the way, I really like the painting — forgery or not.