August 12, 2009

Deficient Internet Regulation Causes Widespread Online Art Seller Deception


An increasing number of Internet Art Sellers, described as "online art sellers", "online art dealers" and/or "art broker" confuse buyers with deceptive and misleading claims.

Even in 2009, false Internet information prospers since no official procedure exists to permanently eliminate misleading seller information/deception from Google/Bing/Safari, etc., before the fraud escalates to financial damage.

What this means is that it is only when a consumer is actually harmed, will any authority allow the respective fraud to be reported.

And only with frequency will seller art fraud get the deserved attention of the FBI, local law enforcement or Internet Crime Complaint Center.

We know this because we routinely point out fraudulent art on eBay who has a consistent "do nothing" complacency, and the few times an eBay lot is withdrawn, it is only a matter of weeks before the seller just re-posts, sometimes with the same name; often with a disguise.

Many deceptive Sellers take advantage of Internet buyers outside the United States because purported art by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, etc., is in demand and art counterfeits have a low cost of goods.

An expensive looking website with false information is compelling to art buyers in Tokyo, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, etc.

Many novice art buyers base purchase decisions on price without realizing the importance of authenticity, quality, provenance, etc.

Time and time again, we notice that counterfeit art is gobbled up over the Authentic counterpart, sometimes with a premium of only +10% or +20%.

Many Sellers are routinely offer Art that is grossly overprice, and allege"credibility" by claiming the purported Art is accompanied with a "Certificate of Authenticity", that is worthless.

Others falsely claim the Art is "authenticated' when in fact it is "authenticated" by an obscure person who is not the authority sanctioned by the respective Artist and/or Estate.

Deception even occurs with regularity on cruise ships; see our 7/20/09 post Never Buy Art On A Cruise Ship; Never! where Dali Prints were sold to a UK couple for hundreds of thousands more than the actual value.

24/7 you can locate deception on eBay as eBay Management is still without an effective procedure to eliminate fraudulent sellers from its site.

Believe it or not, eBay even has a blind eye towards art sellers who largely sell counterfeits, as they encourage and enable fraud by allowing PayPal payment, an eBay subsidiary.

In other words, eBay is giving its Sellers an incentive to maintain extensive listings of fakes.

eBay benefits from increased listing income; PayPal benefits from seller commissions; while the Buyer suffers and pays the price in the long run of the fraud.

Too often, Art sold on eBay is actually not as described nor created by the Artist claimed, but that didn't seem to be of importance to Meg Whitman, now running for public office.

Some sellers even attach themselves to an art membership when the facts show otherwise.

The result: buyers make decisions which are blatantly wrong, but the buyer is ill equipped to know better.

Frequently claims are announced on fancy websites; in contrast the art for sale is clearly and obviously counterfeit, full of errors and incorrectly documented.

What is a Deceptive Seller actually doing?

Some sellers document and designate a purported Work as an "Andy Warhol", when the 2007 created Item actually uses a "design of Warhol", and was created posthumously.

The correct documentation should be After Andy Warhol; Warhol died in 1987, but that doesn't stop deceptive sellers.

Or, claim a Catalogue Raisonne Reference to an Post Card or Suite of Post Cards of Andy Warhols, originally used to announce an edition by the Pop Artist great, and cleverly omit the correct documentation.

A reputable Art Dealer would never confuse ephemera with an original Limited Edition; in this cases the correct documentation of a Post Card of an Andy Warhol, would be "offset lithograph" published without limit. By referencing a Catalogue Raisonne, deceptive art sellers make the post card appear "official", but it is an outward deception.

Ronald Feldman Gallery originally issued 10 Postcards to announce the Andy Warhol Ad Screenprint Portfolio before they were published in 1987.  Advertising the postcards now as "Set of Andy Warhol Ads", along with a Catalogue Raisonne reference makes the postcards sound like they are edition works, when in fact they are ephemera at best.

Still other deceptive Art Sellers abuse the public's integrity by attaching the "Andy Warhol" Name to a Sunday B. Morning Print of a Marilyn, Soup Can, Mao, Flowers Screenprint.

Andy Warhol never created the SUNDAY B. MORNING Screenprints.

NONE!

Put another way, Andy Warhol didn't sign nor authorize any Art with the "Sunday B. Morning" title.

These Sellers know the difference between the Sunday B. Morning version and the Andy Warhol Authentic counterpart, but deceptive sellers realize sloppy copy is more effective for sales.

The bottom-line is that:
  • Deception creates more buyer interest.
  • Deception creates increased sales.
Some Sellers even state that "the Sunday B Morning Print is authorized", when that too is blatantly incorrect.

In other words, these Sellers would rather incorrectly claim the purported art is an "Andy Warhol Sunday B Morning Marilyn Screenprint" rather than the correct designation of "After Andy Warhol Sunday B. Marilyn Screenprint".

Any purported Art Seller/Dealer who confuses their "Andy Warhol" Inventory when it is actually an "After Andy Warhol Print", doesn't deserve your business nor anyone else.

This extends to any dealer that mixes an Andy Warhol Print with an "After Andy Warhol" on their website listings and classifies "After Andy Warhol" with "Andy Warhol" in their Dealer Search.

The point is: "Andy Warhol Art" is very different than "After Andy Warhol Art".

From the Dealer's perspective, the mix up makes the "After Andy Warhols" get more page views, albeit misleading and confusing.

We can guarantee you that when they purchased the "After Warhol" inventory, they knew quite well it was Art created by "Andy Warhol".

You would think the Buyer would get the similar respect, which is why we think you shouldn't reward anyone who is purposely deceptive.

But Google, Bing, Foxfire, Safari actually reward such misinformation and there is no procedure to eliminate these purposeful deceptive Sellers from their Search.

No reputable jeweler would attach the "Cartier" name to a counterfeit watch, so why shouldn't Fine Art Dealers be forced to comply with similar ethics?

The deception even extends to memberships.

Some art sellers claim to have been an original sothebys.com licensed charter member.

Other claim to be "active appraisers" when the facts show otherwise.

To offer a Work of Art or anything for sale on the original Sothebys.com auction site, over a decade ago, all Sothebys.com sellers were required to be "expert specialists" in their respective field.

As a further condition of sale, sothebys.com required that all Licensed Charter Sellers provide "a guarantee of authenticity and condition of the property they sold.", a condition eBay should consider, but won't because it would immediately curtail revenue income.

In other words, on the original sothebys.com auction site, Book Dealers were only authorized to sell collectible books, but could not sell diamond rings.

Too bad, eBay and Google does not have a similar requirement for sellers of Art.

Here is a link to check the entire list of original Sothebys.com Charter Members.

If someone says they are a credited "Appraiser", search Google, or better yet, pick up the phone and check to see if the person is a member. Too often they aren't.

If an Art Appraiser ever requests to purchase Works of Art after providing an Appraisal, a response of "no thank you" is appropriate. 

Then report the incident so that Appraiser is immediately removed from the respective Appraisal Organization.

It is a clear conflict of interest that might save you thousands of dollars; and most likely, others too.
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