Why Has Counterfeit Calder Sculpture Sold 75 Times At Auction?



Art fraud affects art collectors at all levels, from buyers who spend a few thousand dollars to art collectors and investors who buy multi-million dollar art. Unfortunately, many art buyers find out the truth long after they were duped by a dishonest seller, and rarely receive a refund.
To con artists, counterfeit art is an appealing business with a low cost of goods.  Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, stated "between 1996 and 2008, Knoedler earned approximately $60 million on fraudulent artworks and cleared $40 million in profits".
Tweet This Counterfeit Alexander Calder Sculpture has more aliases than Al Capone2 Sculptures Misattributed to Alexander Calder sold over 75 times at auction

Earlier this year, the Calder Foundation documented a series of pink and black sculptures, lithographs and textiles, all of which violate the artist’s intellectual property rights and are often fraudulently misattributed to Alexander Calder.


One of the misappropriated works documented on the Calder Foundation website that caught our attention is a small metal sculpture that has sold at public auction over 75 times since 2004, at auction houses including WrightPhillipsDrouotBloomsbury, Galerie Fischer, Van Ham. 

Since 2004, the sculpture has been misattributed over 40 times as a sculpture by Alexander Calder and more than 35 times as a sculpture created after Alexander Calder.


     Documented as Alexander Calder Pink Elephant by Van Ham
Sold for $3,616 on 12/3/09
Sculpture Misattributed to Alexander Calder Sold by Van Ham Auctions in 2009

Documented as Alexander Calder L'√Člephant Noir by Wright
Sold for $5,000 on 10/12/10

Sculpture Misattributed to Alexander Calder Sold for $5,000 by Wright Auction


Thus far in 2013, counterfeit Alexander Calder sculptures have been sold more than seven times by auction houses online and off, including: artnetChantilly EncheresArtprecium, LiveAuctioneers, Rome & Associates and Fraisse & Jabot. Thousands of dollars have been spent by innocent buyers due to deceptive selling practices; due dilligence by these firms would have revealed that every one of the Sculptures sold by these firms was not created by Alexander Calder nor approved by the estate of Alexander Calder. 
Documented as After Alexander Calder Black Elephant by Fraisse & Jabon, 4/11/13
Sculpture Misattributed  to Alexander Calder Sold by Fraisse & Jabon


You could say the small counterfeit sculpture misattributed to Alexander Calder has more aliases than Al Capone, and has been documented with a number of titles:
  • Elephant Noir 
  • Sun, Moon & Stars 
  • Celestial Elephant 
  • Black Elephant 
  • Pink Elephant
In fact, this small sculpture not created by Alexander Calder sold for $24,857 even though not conceived, designed, nor painted by Alexander Calder nor authorized by anyone from the Calder family or the estate of Alexander Calder.

    Sold $24,857 by Massol as Alexander Calder L'√Člephant Noir on 8/14/05
Sculpture Misattributed to Alexander Calder Sold by Massol for $24,857.


Google search any one of the erroneous titles above and/or or images shown in this Article, and you will see counterfeit sculptures attributed to Alexander Calder continue to be sold by unscrupulous art sellers.



Many auction sellers further the deception by accompanying the misattributed Calder Sculpture with a fraudulent “certificate of authenticity" also known as a "COA", allegedly written by George Gordon which also indicates that the sculpture was approved by the estate of the Alexander Calder which was never granted. The mobile elements were loosely based upon and have been misappropriated from images that Calder made related to his projects for Braniff Airlines.



As we have written in Fine Art or eBay Fake Art? by Joseph K. Levene “certificate of authenticity” (COA) fraud is rampant. No matter how well written, a fake COA will always remain fake. The bottom-line is that no COA can transform a counterfeit work of art into an authentic work of art, and the fraudulent certificate by George Gordon is no different. As the Calder Foundation states "As works of art, these unfortunate objects are of no interest and have no historical place in Calder's life and work".

However, one thing you will never see is a Calder Application Number which is necessary to demonstrate that a work by Calder is genuine. Curiously, many of the auction houses that have offered this small misattributed sculpture as well as the counterfeit textiles and lithographs also have sold authentic Calders that do have Calder application numbers.

On May 1, 2013, a black elephant sculpture sold for $4,715 on artnet with a certificate of authenticity;  estimated $4,000–$5,000, the counterfeit Calder attracted five bids.

Sculpture Misattributed to Alexander Calder Sold 5/1/13 by artnet.com for $4,715 that attracted 5 bids
    
COA can't Transform Counterfeit Into Authentic  Art 
COA can't Transform Counterfeit Into Authentic  Art
Summary of issues regarding this counterfeit sculpture: 
  • Offered in 2 colors, Pink or Black, neither authorized by Calder
  • Offered for sale with a range of different titles
  • The monograph signature "CA" that appears on the Sculpure is a forgery.
  • There is no authorized edition of 999.
  • Many purported sculptures have been sold repeatedly, each with the same edition number.
  • The certificate of authenticity (COA) from George Gordon is counterfeit, pure fiction!
  • Sometimes documented with a 1973-2002 date, which is impossible since Alexander Calder passed away in 1976.
  • Other times, it is erroneously documented as a sculpture created in 1972 or 1973.
Everything about this misattributed sculpture allegedgly created in an edition of 999 is fiction, or to put it in art terms, a blatant counterfeit even though numerous galleries, brick and mortar auction houses and online auctions continue to sell it.

If you purchased one of these pink or black elephants, and thought it was an authentic sculpture by Alexander Calder, you need to realize the bad news; this purported work is counterfeit, not created by Calder or the Calder estate, and will never have any value similar to the textiles and lithographs also offered by sale by deceptive sellers.
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