Why You Shouldn't Buy Art from Amazon

by  & Robert Grunder
Amazon Art is shockingly sloppy, dated, lacks professionalism & financially risky
Amazon.com/art is shockingly sloppy, dated, lacks professionalism and financially risky
Amazon Art is Shockingly Sloppy, Dated, Lacks Professionalism & Vastly Overpriced
Amazon, the experienced online e-commerce site well known for selling books, dvd's, pots & pans, and recently, even wine, launched a beta art site in August 2013. The site features art at a broad spectrum of price points, from $10. for an Untitled dollar bill by Ryan Humphrey to a Norman Rockwell Painting offered for $4.85 million. 

In our opinion, the new Amazon.com art section is shockingly sloppy, dated, lacks professionalism and unless the A-To-Z Guarantee is revised, financially risky for art with a price-tag of more than $2,500especially if you learn the art you purchased is different than you thought and report the problem more than 30 days after shipment. In addition, there are numerous instances of grossly overpriced art, in some cases, 10+ times the last public price at auction! 

Amazon Art Site lacks the pizzazz of Artspace, 1stdips, Paddle8, Artsy
Amazon.com/art lacks the pizazz of artspace, 1stdibs, paddle8, artsy
Amazon.com/art Lacks Pizazz and Feels Dated 
We think the new Amazon art site lacks pizazz and feels dated vs. online art ventures from artspaceartsypaddle81stdibs and the always innovative Christie's and Sotheby's.

We have been carefully looking at the new site for the past two weeks to see how Amazon offers Art by Andy Warhol, Richard Pettibone, Claude Monet, Norman Rockwell, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, etc., and frankly, are less than impressed. The new Amazon/art site was launched with little thought to providing a safe infrastructure for online art purchases. 

Frankly, the less than professional website Amazon introduced is even more surprising since Amazon has had previous online art experience as a 2000 partner with sothebys.com in Sotheby's unsuccessful launch of online art auctions. 

The difference between the Sotheby's and Amazon ventures are huge:
  • Although Sotheby's lost nearly $100 million in its launch of online auctions, there was a fundamental difference in quality between Amazon and sothebys.com. When Sothebys.com launched, consumers never had to question any lot's authenticity as Sotheby's eliminated the possibility of any and all consumer risk concerning counterfeits and/or Works not being as described.
Accordingly, the Sothebys.com selling proposition joined then with Amazon as a partner, ensured that all lots offered online had the same five year Terms of Guarantee found at the bricks and mortar Sotheby's; for reference, Christie's provides a similar Terms of Guarantee.

By comparison, Amazon forgot this key selling point, and only offers a 30 days from date of shipment guarantee up to $2,500., even though you can buy art with price-tags of several million. Erik Fairleigh, an Amazon spokesman, said that Amazon "is not providing an ironclad guarantee of authenticity" but is “working with prestigious galleries and dealers”  to ensure quality and would investigate any potential problems and “take appropriate action.”

Amazon has obligation to protect online art buyers with an appropriate Terms of Guarantee that covers the total online amazon/art purchase, not just the first $2,500. 

Did someone in Amazon Legal Department forget that the $4.850 million Norman Rockwell is not be covered with its current A-To-Z Guarantee? The insufficient consumer protection guarantee offered by amazon is a reminder of the insufficient $250 Buyer Protection maximum offered by eBay until 2010. In fact, the inappropriate $250 eBay Buyer Protection maximum encouraged Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd. to provide all Clients with a guarantee of Authenticity for all Fine Art offered and sold on eBay at all price points when the Joseph K Levene Fine Art Ltd eBay Store was launched in 1999. Essentially, Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd. decided that its online Terms of Guarantee for its eBay Store should match the art vendor requirements as specified by the Uniform Commercial Code.

Let's face it, art fraud is rampant and frequently in the news because there is no art market regulation. These headlines should make you think twice before you risk buying art on amazon:  
Amazon.com/art is Alarmingly Handicapped
Although Peter Faricy, V.P., Amazon Marketplace, said "Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers", the site is alarming handicapped. Many images that Amazon's art dealers are posting are inconsistent with Mr. Faricy's press release statement:  
We have noticed numerous images on amazon that are reproductions from Books and/or Catalogue Raisonnes, including art with six figures prices like the Andy Warhol Suite of 10 Jew Screenprints for $185,000. that are sold framed, yet there are no frames shown.

Look closely and see moire patterns from scanned images from Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne: 1962-1987, Fourth Edition, D.A.P., New York, 2003. 
Andy Warhol Suite of 10 Jews Appears To Be A Scan from Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne: 1962-1987
Andy Warhol Suite of 10 Jews Screenprints
 Image Appears to be Scan from Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne: 1962-1987
Amazon.com/art Looks Like Losing Team Design From The Apprentice
The new art site from amazon is so sloppy and poorly designed, that if it weren't live, you might think it was created by the losing team from Donald Trump's The Apprentice.
Amazon.com/art looks like it was created by a losing team from The Apprentice
You might think Amazon.com/art was created by the losing team from Donald Trump's The Apprentice
Is Amazon.com vetting the art for sale 24/7?
The Amazon.com/art site has been designed with little thought to provide sufficient details to ensure that online art buyers aren't confused and/or surprised should they pull the trigger and make an online art purchase.

Does anyone at Amazon/art actually understand the requirements of selling fine art online, especially if the art is priced beyond a few dollars? The new site appears to be managed by someone with little insight about selling fine art, especially the concerns of online art buyers who don't want surprises since they don't see the art they purchase before making payment. 

It is essential someone at amazon be given the responsibility to ensure all online art for sale is both authentic and not vastly overpriced. Furthermore it behooves amazon to implement a procedure to ensure listings include accurate condition assessments; correct documentation details; inclusion of photographs of the actual art for sale and appropriate provenance.

Listings that don't meet this criteria should be removed. For reference, we have made numerous attempts to communicate errors we have noticed to amazon and have yet to receive a response, even though many errors cited in this article in The Art Fine Blog have been previously reported. 

Highlights of serious problems/oversights on Amazon/art:
  • no condition descriptions and instances of incorrect condition
  • incorrect documentation
  • prints that are clearly editions, are sited as being unique
  • works are reproduced directly from books
  • works that are described as framed shown unframed 
  • works lack catalogue raisonne information
  • signature locations are often incorrect 
  • authenticity questions are numerous, especially with the sloppy documentation?
  • incorrect framing dimensions
  • shipping/transit insurance not detailed
  • consistency vs. catalogue raisonne 
  • excessive hyperbole
  • poorly written artist biographies
  • titles that deliberately changed incorrectly
  • excessively overpriced art for sale that no reasonable art dealer would ever recommend.
Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee covers purchases up to $2,500 within 30 days of shipment
The amazon art site was launched with an insufficient refund policy. Let's say you buy a Picasso Etching for $150,000., and find out it is not authentic after you have owned it for two months? 
  • What happens next
  • Is the entire $150,000 covered? 
  • If it is fake, amazon guarantees you will get $2,500 refund if you speak up within 30 days of shipment, but probably nothing after 60 days.
Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee covers purchase up to $2,500. within 30 days of shipment
Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee Only Covers Purchases Up To  $2,500 Within 30 days of shipment!

A-to-Z Guarantee Helps You Only Lose $147,500 if the $150,000 Etching is Fake 
Well, the A-to-Z Guarantee is great for most book purchases, or the graduation present computer you give your son, but now that Amazon is selling art priced in the millions, the Amazon A-to-Z guarantee leaves you a few zeros short, especially if you find out the work you thought was authentic cost more than $2,501.

The sad truth is that unless you find out within 30 days of shipment, and you purchased your art via Amazon and not directly from the dealer offering the art, you might just be left holding the bag. Put another way, you might get screwed if the art you purchased turns out not to be authentic/different than what you thought it was, especially if it cost say, $150,000., as our example indicated. 

At best, you might get lucky and only lose $147,500 if the art is fake and that assumes you report the problem/issue within 30 days from the date the art was shipped to you. 

Contact Seller for Refund Policy. 
For some reason, even though all Amazon art purchases are handled by Amazon, the site has not enforced art vendors provide their respective refund policy. In fact, Amazon recommends you contact the respective art seller, even though it doesn't mind accepting your American Express to cover payment for a work of art priced in the millions! 

  • What happens if you have nothing in writing if you contact that dealer directly?
  • We wouldn't dare risk buying anything with such an insufficient refund policy. 
  • Why should you?
Highlights From actual Art for sale listings on Amazon follows:

Norman Rockwell Painting for $4,850 million is the Highest Price Art For Sale!
The highest priced Work of Art currently being offered on Amazon.com/art is a Norman Rockwell painting titled Willie Gillis, Package from Home, offered by M.S. Rau Antiques at $4,850 million. 
HIghest Price Work of Art is Willie Gillis, Package from Home, Norman Rockwell Painting for $4,850 million
HIghest Price Art For Sale on Amazon is a Norman Rockwell Painting for $4,850 million
Sold at Susanin's Auctions for $2.8 million in December 2012
Not disclosed is that the same Norman Rockwell Painting was sold December 1, 2012 at Susanin's Auction for $2.8 million, or was it really sold?  
  • Why is there no mention that the Norman Rockwell painting was offered at Susanin's Auction in 2012 in the listings documentation details?
  • Isn't the potential buyer of this Norman Rockwell entitled to know its history? 
  • Why does Amazon condone not listing the actual history of the Norman Rockwell Painting, including provenance ownership?
After all, there was plenty of press indicating the Norman Rockwell Painting would sell for as much as $10 million when offered by Susanin's Auction in December 2012. Non-disclosure of key information is inexcusable and, most likely, in violation of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Did Susanin's actually sell the same Norman Rockwell for $2.8 million in December 2012
Did Susanin's sell same Norman Rockwell painting for $2.8 million in December 2012?
$1,450 million Andy Warhol is overpriced since similar painting sold for $116,772 
$1.45 million Andy Warhol  Hamburger Michel Painting is overpriced and listing filled with errors
Andy Warhol $1.45 million Hamburger Michel Vastly Overpriced Since Similar Painting Sold for $116,772

A similar Andy Warhol Hamburger Michel painting fetched $116,772 at auction

Andy Warhol Hamburger Michel Painting Sold for $116,772 by Sotheby's London
Andy Warhol Hamburger Michel Painting Sold for $116,772 by Sotheby's London

Jackie III Screenprint is wrong color and where's photo showing frame?
Andy Warhol Jackie III Screenprint is the wrong color & where is the frame?
Andy Warhol Jackie III Screenprint is the wrong color & where is photo showing it framed? 
Andy Warhol Jackie III Screenprint, stamp signed on verso should look like this.
Andy Warhol Jackie III Screenprint should actually look like this
$166,250 Warhol t-shirt overpriced as similar t-shirt sold at Christie's for only $9,600!
$166,500 Andy Warhol is actually a T-Shirt on White Cotton, nothing more
$166,500 Andy Warhol T-Shirt on White Cotton is Vastly Overpriced

Andy Warhol T-Shirt on Yellow Cotton Sold by Christie's For $9,600 in November 2012
Andy Warhol T-Shirt on Yellow Cotton Sold by Christie's For $9,600 in November 2012

Roy Lichtenstein Imperfect Print is an edition of 45 with 14 AP's, NOT Unique

Roy Lichtenstein Imperfect 220 is edition of 45 with 14 AP's; NOT Unique
Roy Lichtenstein Imperfect 220 is an edition of 45 with 14 AP's, NOT Unique
The Roy Lichtenstein Print, Imperfect 220 mixed media Print was published by Gemini G.E.L. in an edition of 45 numbered impressions with 14 AP's. The correct medium description is woodcut and screenprint in colors with collage on Archivart 4-ply Museum Board. Accordingly the documentation ascribed on Amazon is incorrect as this Roy Lichtenstein mixed media work of art is NOT unique and not just a woodcut.

$5,000 After Picasso sold by Ro Gallery for only $300 at Live Auctioneers 8/15/13

Ro Gallery sold the same After Picasso for $300. 8/15/13

Ro Gallery sold the same After Picasso for only $300 vs $5,000 Amazon price from the same seller!

Ro Gallery Has the same After Picasso signed by Marina Picasso for $5,000
Ro Gallery Has the same After Picasso signed by Marina Picasso for $5,000

Ro Gallery has same After Picasso on Amazon for +$4,700 more!

In either case, this posthumous Picasso  is hardly investment grade material. Created after Picasso died in 1973, the correct documentation is "After Picasso", not "Pablo Picasso". On Amazon, the listing states the work was created in 1932 which is also inaccurate; the original painting yes, this print signed by Marina Picasso, Pablo Picasso's granddaughter,  no.  

On Amazon, Ro Gallery states it is from the edition of 500; on Live Auctioneers it is edition of 1000. Either way, a bad investment and not recommended. Will never be collectable nor desirable and check out how the price keeps going down on Live Auctioneers from same seller.
Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd.

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