Why Has Counterfeit Calder Sculpture Sold 75 Times At Auction?

by  & Robert Grunder

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.  The New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen, 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, often fraudulently misattributed to Alexander Calder.

One of the misappropriated works documented by the Calder Foundation 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, this work 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 by Van Ham as Alexander Calder Pink Elephant Sold  $3,616 on 12/3/09
  Documented by Van Ham as Alexander Calder Pink Elephant, sold $3,616, 12/3/09

Documented by Wright as Alexander Calder L'Élephant Noir, sold $5,000, 10/12/10
Documented by Wright as Alexander Calder L'Élephant Noir, sold $5,000, 10/12/10

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 diligence by these firms would have revealed every one of the sold sculptures was not created by Alexander Calder nor authorized by the Estate of Alexander Calder. 
Documented as After Alexander Calder Black Elephant by Fraisse & Jabon, 4/11/13
Documented as After Alexander Calder Black Elephant by Fraisse & Jabon, 4/11/13

You could say the small counterfeit sculpture misattributed to Alexander Calder has more aliases than Al Capone, and has been documented with a variety of Titles:
  • Elephant Noir 
  • Sun, Moon & Stars 
  • Celestial Elephant 
  • Black Elephant 
  • Pink Elephant
This small sculpture not created by Alexander Calder once fetched $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.

    Documented by Massol as Alexander Calder L'Élephant Noir, sold $24,857, 8/14/05
Sold $24,857 by Massol as Alexander Calder L'Élephant Noir on 8/14/05
Google search one of the erroneous titles and/or images shown in this article, and you'll see counterfeit sculptures attributed to Alexander Calder are sold by unscrupulous art sellers
Many auction sellers further the deception by accompanying the misattributed Calder sculpture with a fraudulent “certificate of authenticity", known as a "COA", allegedly written by George Gordon which falsely indicates the sculpture was approved by the Estate of Alexander Calder. The mobile elements were loosely based upon and have been misappropriated from images related to Calder's projects for Braniff Airlines.

As Joseph K. Levene stated in Fine Art or eBay Fake Art? “certificate of authenticity”(COA) fraud is rampant. No matter how well written, a fake COA will always remain fake". The bottom-line is 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 on these fakes 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 fetched $4,715 on artnet with a certificate of authenticity;  estimated $4,000–$5,000, the counterfeit Calder attracted five bids.
COA cannot transform counterfeit into authentic art
COA cannot transform counterfeit into authentic art 
Summary of issues regarding counterfeit sculpture: 
  • Offered 2 colors, Pink & Black, neither authorized by Alexander Calder or Estate
  • Offered for sale with a range of different titles
  • The monograph signature "CA" that appears on sculpture is a forgery.
  • There is no authorized edition of 999.
  • Many purported sculptures sold repeatedly, each with same edition number.
  • The certificate of authenticity (COA) from George Gordon is counterfeit, pure fiction!
  • Sometimes documented with 1973-2002 date, which is impossible since Alexander Calder passed away in 1976.
  • Other times, erroneously documented as sculpture created in 1972 or 1973.
Everything about this misattributed sculpture allegedly created in an edition of 999 is fiction, or to put it in art terms, a blatant counterfeit, yet numerous galleries, brick and mortar auction houses and online auctions continue to sell it.

If you purchased one of these pink or black elephant forgeries, and thought it was an authentic Alexander Calder sculpture, here's the bad news; this purported work is counterfeit, not created by Alexander Calder or authorized by the Calder estate, and will never have any value or considered as a collectible work of art.
To sum it up in one word, it is "fake".

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