Art Market Investigation – Fakes, Forgeries and Deception
The art world has been plagued by fakes and forgeries for over two thousand years which began largely as a result of buyers being more interested in the aesthetics of the work than who painted it. It was during the Renaissance that artworks became a commodity, resulting in the value of an artwork being directly related to the profile of the artist and consequently making the issue of fakes and forgeries far more important.
Advances in technology have bought about new and improved methods of creating forgeries, which make it harder and harder to spot the fakes. The Internet has provided the perfect market place for fakes and forgeries through a lack of regulation, which gives sellers the ability to provide false details, misrepresent goods and generally deceive buyers.
The popularity of Australian Aboriginal art has seen the art market flooded with fake and forged artworks, many of which are sold online. In an effort to combat the particularly serious issue of Aboriginal art fraud, there is currently a program being developed which involves the use of specially designed, hi-tech authenticity labels, which will be used to identify genuine indigenous artworks. Until this program is implemented and becomes standard practice, the Australian Aboriginal art market will continue to be fraught with issues in regard to authenticity and attribution so extreme care and vigilance is required when making a purchase.
Many of the Australian artists such as David Boyd, Brett Whitely, Sidney Nolan, Norman Lindsay and others have also had forgeries of their work come onto the market recently. However, because of an extremely low rate of official reporting on fraudulent activity it is not known how extensive the problem is although it is safe to say that it would be more extensive than the reported instances would suggest. Dealers are understandably hesitant to reveal that they have been in possession of a fake work as it would almost certainly have an impact on their reputation, even if it was a genuine mistake.
Even though we do not know the real extent of the problem of art forgery an article from the New York Times in 1999 gave an estimation that depending on the period and the artist, between 10% and 40% of paintings for sale at any one time are fraudulent or so over-restored as to make them the equivalent of fakes.
Even though the experts are sometimes fooled, the best way to prevent buying a fake or forgery is to do your homework before purchasing a painting, which means researching the seller of the work, confirming provenance where available, obtaining a certificate of authenticity and getting a second opinion if you have any doubts. The other important point to keep in mind is that if it seems too good to be true it most probably is.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.
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- A Guide to Buying Australian Aboriginal Art
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- Buying and Selling Upmarket Art Online