Tags: Swindled | Dealer | Friends | art

Don't Be Swindled by Friendly Dealers

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Friday, 20 Mar 2015 02:10 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Those who seek wealth and power often reinvent ways to deceive and cheat others to say on “top” of their game.
 
A few years ago, three art dealers determined to ruin the career of an honest, popular colleague, hired an artist to paint exact replicas of genuine paintings that the trustworthy dealer had sold. Then, the trio had the reproductions appraised as forgeries. One of the diabolical dealers presented the appraisal to the FBI and informed agents that the virtuous dealer had sold “too many forgeries” and “should be indicted.”
 
The other two conspirators confirmed the lie with more slander. The cold-hearted dealers gave photographs to the FBI of their replicas and claimed they were the original paintings sold by the framed dealer.
 
Convinced the moral dealer was a blatant criminal, FBI agents told collectors they had been swindled and within days, the honest dealer’s life turned into an atrocity of false accusations, interrogations, and collector hysteria. Although the FBI proved nothing against the honorable dealer, they destroyed the dealer’s life, marriage, earning ability, and reputation, and caused the blinded court of public opinion to judge unfairly the ethical dealer as a guilty criminal.
 
The three cunning dealers outsmarted the art world and the FBI. Because of their scheming, to this day people wonder if the ethical dealer who was guilty of nothing sold forgeries. The three con men could not compete legitimately with the knowledgeable dealer’s ability or outstanding character, so they destroyed their competition.  
 
Be leery of dealer-friends” who provoke guilt. If a dealer or agent continuously buys a client expensive gifts or becomes a client’s social or drinking “buddy,” he or she has crossed a professional boundary that usually tarnishes the client-dealer relationship.
 
Although there are exceptions, if a dealer is considered too close a friend, it may be difficult for a client to conduct proper business or demand certain things from that dealer. If a client questions the ethics or knowledge of a dealer-friend, the dealer may provoke guilt or do other things to dissuade the client.
 
Recently, a wealthy beginning art collector called a Chicago art gallery to ask about paintings it advertised. After a brief conversation, the dealer convinced the collector to fly to Chicago to view the art.
 
A chauffeur-driven limousine met the collector at the airport and he received the royal treatment at the gallery. As he ate cheese and crackers and sipped rare wines, hours passed and high-priced paintings by minor artists were sale-pitched. The dealer falsely claimed the high-priced offerings were “great investments.”
 
Then, the collector was taken to an expensive four-star restaurant for cocktails and dinner, accompanied by a young female “escort.” After the meal, the collector was taken back to the gallery and by that time he was so drunk he barely remembered his name.
 
The next morning, the collector could not believe what he had done the night before. “My God, I spent $2 million on art I know nothing about,” he told his stunned wife. “It must have been the drinks,” he groaned. “I had to buy the art. I would have felt so guilty if I had not bought those paintings after the champagne, wine, and dinner.”
 
The swindled collector’s character was too weak to confront the dealer in a timely fashion. For weeks, the collector sheepishly asked others for advice. He finally decided to return the paintings, but the Chicago dealer refused to buy back the art. 
 
The collector then asked Sotheby’s and Christie’s to sell the paintings, but they refused. He was horrified to learn all of the paintings had recently been sold at auction for less than one-fifth the price he had paid for them. He did not ask the right questions or demand certain data be included on a Bill of Sale, thus his demand that the sleazy dealer take back the art fell on deaf ears. 
 
The limo ride, a few drinks, and a meal that night in Chicago cost him his confidence, the desire to be an art collector and $2 million.  
 
Question the ethics and purpose of any dealer or agent who joins the board of an art club, historical society, institution, or museum. They usually want to meet rich donor-buyers or purchase, take on consignment, or sell items from that public collection. Those are conflicts of interest and only serve to fill the bank account of the dealer-agent.
 
Be skeptical of any dealer who visits nursing homes or the elderly on a regular basis and exits with objects or art, or those who join a church or other nonprofit organizations with the same intention. Their purpose is to make money after they befriend and gain the trust of elderly people who own valuables. 
 
The ruthless commonly look for easy marks and select victims who are alone, sickly, in need of cash or who are desperate for attention.
 
When a hard-hearted dealer selects an elderly person to cheat, he or she weaves a web of deception to gain that person’s admiration in order to buy items for close to nothing, or even steal the victim’s possessions.
 
They commonly visit and compliment the elderly, bring them worthless trinkets and flowers, make them think everyone else is after their assets, turn them against close relatives and friends, and attempt to place themselves in the position of being the only person to trust. Many barbarous “men of the cloth” act the same way when a wealthy parishioner is ill or dying.
 
Not only does this kind of person steal from the sequestered elderly, their conniving infuriates future heirs and often leads to litigation. Despite the fact there is no legal title to stolen property, when questions are raised, the deceptive usually claim the elderly person gave them items that are missing from an estate. Eventually these thieves falsify data, sell the property, and regrettably most of their crimes go unpunished.
 
Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including, "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.
 

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PatriciaPierce
Be leery of “dealer-friends” who provoke guilt. If a dealer or agent continuously buys a client expensive gifts or becomes a client’s social or drinking “buddy,” he or she has crossed a professional boundary that usually tarnishes the client-dealer relationship.
Swindled, Dealer, Friends, art
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2015-10-20
Friday, 20 Mar 2015 02:10 PM
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