Tags: art | fraud | internet

Fraudulent Art Hawkers Troll the Internet

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 08:21 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Far too many unqualified or dishonest Internet sellers promote bogus information and show touched-up images of paintings and antiques that taint and lessen the credibility of offerings from more honorable scholars and dealers. In a world full of con artists, trust should not be handed out like party favors.

Popular art-related Internet databases list under the names of famous artists many dealers’ names but not all are bonafied experts. Any person or gallery that pays a fee is given instant credibility on Internet sites. The intention of these Internet sites is to stimulate commerce, but many of the fly-by-night-dealers they promote are con game experts with bogus credentials.

When an Internet database gives credibility to the unworthy or places incorrect or misleading information as fact on-line, true scholarship and genuine artists’ works are diminished in stature. Misleading data obscures facts and the opinions of bona fide authorities.

When the unqualified are listed with the most learned, it dilutes the superb credentials of some of the most intelligent art minds. When that happens, scholars and eminent dealers’ knowledge, earning power and expertise are weakened, and it is difficult for novices to distinguish between real scholarship and blatant deception.

Before the Internet, academic well-intending dealers studied art and artists for years and spent enormous sums of money to promote art and to develop expertise.

Some sacrificed their waking hours to become perceptive and to legitimize the art world. They attended and mounted art exhibitions, studied art history and artistic techniques, publicly lectured, scrutinized artistic traditions, searched for definitive examples of art, and set up respectable galleries from which they could buy and sell on a regular basis.

As each absorbed data and learned to view and judge art, they earned distinguished well-deserved praise and pedigrees and the less qualified were considered out of their league. Since art-related Internet databases contaminate all of that, art buyers need to scrutinize credentials, ask questions and remain alert.

Websites compile information for public consumption and organizers want to get rich selling stock options, memberships and advertisements. Site managers often cannot decipher what is or is not fact and have no close relationships with those who are an integral part of the art world or they automatically assume the richest art dealers are the most honest and informed (which often is not true).

This behavior waters-down viable dealer credibility and professional standing, and it confuses and misleads the public into believing that anyone listed on a database site is a noteworthy, educated art expert.

Too many Internet sites list as equals the eminent with the unknown, the professional with the beginner, the scholar with the unaware, the ethical alongside the unscrupulous. The existence of any index of dealer names on what is believed to be a reliable website gives power and prestige to all names indexed.

Although some Internet information is correct, a great deal is false, hyped or made up. When looking at auctioned paintings on www.askart.com (and other Art Price sites) a beginning collector has no idea what paintings are genuine or forgeries. Nor are they told which paintings have fake signatures or extensive restoration.

One of the most common misrepresentations on Internet auction and sale sites is enhancing the colors of a digital image, to make a painting or object appear to be much more beautiful than it actually is.

Clever computer manipulators also can add figures, flags, signatures or anything else they want to include in a digital image. Prior to making a purchase, make certain you understand how a website protects (or does not protect) consumers against crooked fraudulent sellers.

Viewers on Internet art websites often assume that all of the listings are of authentic paintings, but that is not the case. Auctions primarily sell everything “as is,” meaning they do not guarantee a painting is real or authentic. Auctions sell whatever they can without making guarantees, thus buyers need to be cognizant of that fact.
Before you purchase anything on the Internet make certain the seller has a buy-back policy. If none is offered, pass the item.

If an Internet item looks too good to be true, it may not exist or be legitimate.
Fraudulent Internet sellers often are scam artists who offer things for sale they cannot obtain. They change their Internet names and addresses after they steal funds from buyers. They reenter Internet sites using another assumed name, sell another naïve buyer something else that is not available, and then move again.

It is wise not to pay for Internet merchandise with a check. Use a credit card service that will protect you whenever an offering or sale is fraudulent!

It can even be worse:
  • The check could have been “washed” and copied for the purpose of making check forgeries to take more money.
  • An unauthorized person could have accessed the bidder’s bank account and emptied it.
  • The check’s information could have been used fraudulently to obtain credit in the bidder’s name. Checking and personal information are illegally bought, sold and traded on the Internet every day.
  • Because eBay and other .com auction sites sell merchandise that cannot be inspected firsthand, too much data is misrepresented, and unknown sellers often change their identities, take money and do not send merchandise. It is wise to shop elsewhere.
Whether bidding for a painting on the Internet or in an auction-house, take time to scrutinize its signature, quality, provenance and condition. Study brushwork and ask questions that relate to issues not included in a catalogue or Internet website.

Try to ascertain if documentation is authentic, truthful and complete. When in doubt, pass it.

The most learned auction buyer does not become hysterical during the bidding process and stops bidding if an item goes too high. If a collector-investor prefers to buy fresh art that has not been auction shopped, he or she purchases art from reliable dealers and private collectors and carefully scrutinizes it before paying for it.

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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Popular art-related Internet databases list under the names of famous artists many dealers’ names but not all are bonafied experts.
art, fraud, internet
Wednesday, 24 December 2014 08:21 AM
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