Hashmasks Is Behind New NFTs by Notorious Art Forger Wolfgang Beltracchi

The NFT collective says it’s giving access to an artist who would otherwise have no way to exhibit his work.

Oct 12, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 13, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. UTC

Hashmasks, the digital art collective that’s put together a collection of thousands of high-end non-fungible tokens (NFTs), is the producer of the recently announced NFT project by Wolfgang Beltracchi.

Beltracchi is the infamous German art forger who recreated and sold the works of famous artists for over 30 years. He was finally caught in 2011 and spent more than three years in prison in Germany. Since his arrest, Beltracchi has been banned by museums, galleries and auction houses from showing and selling his work.

That makes him a great candidate for an NFT collection, Hashmasks said Tuesday.

“There is no better artist to utilize the blockchain to express their art than Beltracchi,” the founder of Hashmasks, who goes by the name of Hansen, told CoinDesk. “He is the most-censored artist. Hence, we can use the Ethereum blockchain as intended to give access to an otherwise barred artist.”

One of the portraits from Beltracchi's "The Greats" NFT Collection (Alberto Venzago/Hashmasks)

Beltracchi’s “The Greats” collection consists of versions of “Salvator Mundi,” a painting believed to have been created by Leonardo da Vinci that sold for a record $450 million in 2017. Beltracchi has made 4,608 NFTs of the painting in the style of other well-known artists including Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Hansen said the time is right for more professional artists to enter the NFT market.

“Most new NFTs are either pixel animals or generative art. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like generative art like Art Blocks, but at some point, we have seen enough of it,” Hansen said. “We believe that after Beltracchi has entered the market it will open a lot of eyes in the traditional art world.”

Hansen declined to discuss any upcoming releases by Hashmasks, a unit of Zurich-based Suum Cuique Labs. “We are not a regular company that mass produces digital art,” he said. “We would only do another project if the idea behind it is intriguing and interesting.”

But he did note that Hashmasks has helped create the MaskDAO to support the Hashmask community, and also recently created a sub-collection of Hashmask NFT avatars that could be used more readily as profile pictures in the same way as the popular Bored Apes and CryptoPunks NFT collections.

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Nelson Wang is CoinDesk's news editor for the East Coast. He holds BTC and ETH above CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1,000.