Purchasing Original Art – Art Buyers Beware


In a competitive field where supply is high, barriers to entry low, and demand weak as in the art field, sellers turn to creating items which appear fine but are in effect, bogus. This counterfeit representation is part of the art world today. By a layman’s definition an art object is original, one-of-a-kind item with no “Made In Country X” stamped upon it. Unfortunately today, too often a painting masquerading as original art or as a copy of an old master is, in fact, anything but original art.

Painted over photographs have become a quick and dirty way of selling original art to unsuspecting purchasers. These purchasers should save their money and buy a paint-by-numbers kit, they would achieve the same result and spend far less.

Here’s what is happening thanks to ever-cheaper technology. Giclee printing, a fancy name for printing using inkjet technology albeit with better inks than the average printer, is now done on canvas and other artistic surfaces for surprisingly little cost and with no expertise required as in silk screen printing. Many legitimate artists and photographers offer giclee prints on canvas as reproductions but scammers took this reproduction method and added a twist.

Very simply, paint over a print on canvas and call it My Masterpiece. Make sure the print is in color so that you don’t have to be too careful about edges, blending, and other messy details artists are normally concerned with when painting. Or better yet, take your masterpiece print, apply a coat of glossy varnish, frame it and sell your original for big bucks. Or enter your masterpiece into shows. Make sure the shows are local for national art shows have already caught on to this scam and will not allow painted over photographs to be exhibited.

I was introduced to this scamming technique at a well-known gallery. A customer, a jeweler with loupe in hand, showed me one painting by an artist who had painted over a color print on canvas which was being sold as an original. We were both appalled, he at the price and I at this new paint-by-numbers trick. Today, by using this scamming method, unscrupulous furniture stores, print shops, and framers can offer real oil paintings of old masters, photographers are now artists, and artist want-to-bes sell original paintings without going through many years of actually learning how to paint.

What can you do as a purchaser of original art? Protect yourself by considering the following points before purchasing:

  • Obtain information about the artist such as training (formally at a school is a better indicator than self-taught), number of years as an artist, when did they begin, i.e. establish you are purchasing from a professional artist (or their gallery representative). Not taking the time to determine the artist’s credentials is, well, P.T. Barnum said it all.
  • Buy directly from an artist or art gallery. Buying from other venues such as furniture stores and craft shops increases your probability of purchasing a bogus original. Craft shop owners, while often very knowledgeable in the area of crafts, may not have the expertise to sell fine art originals.
  • Look at other examples of the artist’s work. Often paint-by-numbers artists will try their hand at actually painting on a blank canvas. Their technique, colors, style and especially brushwork will be radically different between the two types of paintings. Now before you jump on me for this last thought, yes, I too paint very differently depending upon subject, medium, and surface. But my line style is always the same which gives an underlying commonality to my paintings.
  • If buying online, find out the return policy or trial period. Usually professional artists will gladly refund your money less shipping and handling costs if the art is returned. This policy has nothing to do with the scam described herein but indicates an artist less likely to be scamming you if they offer such a policy.
  • Find out what other line-of-work the artist is currently doing. This may seen irrelevant but artists who are also involved in businesses listed above are, unfortunately, suspect.

As well as art buyers, professional artists such as me, who train for many years and practice their craft for many more years before becoming professionals, cannot ignore what many local businesses, online websites and even fellow artists are doing to draw uninformed art buyers to this type of original art to make a sale. And these buyers, bless their hearts, need to realize that, as in everything else, it’s buyer beware.

Source by Diane Kraudelt

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