One of the biggest concerns all collectors face is the possibility of being duped in to purchasing a fake work of art. No one likes to be fooled. In this segment, we'll discuss the various types of fraudulent artworks that exist and where they are most prevalent so that you can make the best possible decisions when acquiring art for your collection.
What are Fakes?
Fakes come in all shapes and sizes. Most common are forgeries of popular artworks by famous or well-known artists. Why? Because these artworks are highly desirable and most collectors would do anything (even if it means ignoring the red flags and their moral compass) in order to obtain a work attributed to their favorite artist. In the world of art, a fake is any artwork which was not produced or authorized by the artist whom the artwork is "attributed". Attribution is the action of ascribing a work of art to a particular artist. We've seen many instances where a work of art was wrongly or falsely attributed to a particular artist in order to coerce the buyer into purchasing the artwork or to command a price comparable to other artworks which have been deemed authentic by historians and experts.
The Problem with Fakes
When you purchase an authentic work of art from an artist, not only are you acquiring a piece of that artist's history and legacy, you are also making an investment in your own history and legacy. Many collectors are known for the artwork they collect and can be remembered long after they're gone by the works they've donated to public institutions, or have given for philanthropic purposes. Even if your objective as a collector is merely to enjoy the artwork, live with it or to simply beautify your home (or work space) wouldn't you feel better knowing the artworks in your collection were the real deal? We think so too. Although a fake artwork may fool your non-art-savvy friends, you'll always know the truth about it. Wouldn't you rather be confident and proud of the things you call "your own"? Also keep in mind, as a collector, it is probably your wish to support the artists you love by purchasing works of art from them. If you are not buying the real thing, the artist you admire receives non of the benefit; rather, the faker is the only one whom profits from this exchange.
Why Do People Buy Fakes?
Fakes aren't something exclusive to the art world. Forgeries have permeated all sectors of commerce, from designer clothes, watches and handbags to concert tickets to cars and almost anything you can imagine. If it is desirable and of high value most likely someone is profiting from faking it.
There are many reasons people buy fakes, let's take a look at a few:
1. Lack of knowledge - the consumer isn't aware they are buying a forgery, or they were presented false information about the artwork they were buying.
2. Price - the consumer is aware the artwork is not authentic, yet defiant because the price of the original is out of their reach, they'll settle for the fake.
3. Status - Many people whom purchase fakes do so to give off the "impression" that they too have expensive taste and have reached a certain "social status" albeit without the bank account to back it up. They want to be part of "the club" but haven't yet earned it in their own dignified way. Those whom can afford the originals can spot the fakers from a mile away. So who is it they think they are fooling? Usually those in their immediate circle, others whom also could not be included in this elite group.
4. Availability - China has made a fortune selling fakes of very famous artworks. Usually these are of paintings which are no longer available to the public as they are owned by museums and other private institutions. The only way to have Starry Night or Sun Flowers by Van Gogh hanging on your living room wall is to purchase a poster or purchase a forgery. In this instance, the forgery will be as close as you can get to the "real thing" as replicas are made to look as close to the original as possible, brush strokes and all.
Where Are All The Fakes?
The internet is the largest seller of fakes. Everyday hundreds of thousands of fakes are sold to unsuspecting buyers. When considering an art purchase online it is best to do the proper research to insure you are getting the real deal. Many of the fakes listed for sale online are meant to deceive by falsifying the information given in the listing. Some of the most common wordings we've seen are "In the style of (insert famous artist's name here)" or "signed so and so (famous artist name)" or "We don't have any information about this piece but we believe it to be by so and so (famous artist)" and on and on. These are "loopholes" sellers of forged artwork use as to not be held liable in the event that the transaction goes sour. The seller can claim that they gave adequate information to you before you decided to make your purchase.
Although a majority of fake artwork is available on the world wide web, keep in mind that the internet is not the only place fakes are available. Some galleries and other more more reputable sellers, such as auction houses and dealers have been known to offer fakes, whether it be with or without their knowledge or consent. Be weary of sellers who seem overly zealous and eager to send you home with the artwork. Art is an not an impulse buy and any professional, reputable and trustworthy source will understand that the collector must take his or her time to decide and feel completely comfortable before purchasing.
Too Good to Be True
A good rule of thumb when considering an art purchase either online or in-person is: IF IT SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS. Investigate what prices the art you'd like to purchase is selling for by reputable sources (i.e galleries, direct from artist, auction house etc.), is there any documentation available for the piece you are considering? Are you able to reach out to the artist or gallery to verify the authenticity of the work? All very important things to take in to account before handing over your credit card or wallet.
Be a Smart Collector
When purchasing an artwork which you greatly desire it is easy to let your emotions take over and get the better of you. Keep all of the above in mind when making your final decisions. The last thing you'd want is to spend your hard earned money only to find out that what you purchased wasn't what you thought it was. Unfortunately many new collectors and even some seasoned ones fall victim to the art forgers and fakers of the world. With enough research, patience and common sense you can outsmart these fakers and insure yourself an authentic work of art that you will be proud to own and admire for many years to come.