Warns Public About Expensive Forgeries

Share Article cautions prospective art buyers not to fall for overpriced oil painting counterfeits after a spate of high-profile lawsuits in the past few months.

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A SERIES of lawsuits and criminal trials concerning counterfeit artwork has led to “buyers beware” warnings from art experts and authorities. The past few months have seen several high profile cases around the world, with victims left red-faced and out of pocket for millions.

According to the New York Times, a recent example involved London hedge fund manager and collector Pierre Lagrange, who is suing New York based Knoedler Gallery on the basis that they sold him an inauthentic Pollock painting for USD $17m. Original Pollock paintings, such as Going West, Blue Poles: Number 11 and Number 32 commonly sell for tens of millions of dollars. The Lagrange lawsuit is part of a wider FBI investigation examining 20 other suspected counterfeit oil paintings sold over the past 20 years, many of which allegedly originated from Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales.

Another high profile case mentioned in Bloomberg discussed the successful October 2011 prosecution of German national Wolfgang Beltracchi, who produced forgeries of French and German artists for more than 30 years. His oil paintings were stylistic recreations of painters such as Max Ernst, Joseph Fernand Henri Léger and Max Pechstein. Beltracchi pleaded guilty and received six years in jail for 14 confirmed forgeries, however, German authorities believe there are at least 50 other fakes still out there. Marketing Vice President Olivia Preston said it was always important to ask about the work’s provenance. Ms Preston said provenance stemmed from the original French word provenir, which means “to come from” and commonly refers to the chronology of the ownership of an artwork. “If the deal seemed too good to be true, then it probably is,” she said. “If the gallery or a dealer can’t give you paperwork or other documents detailing the oil painting’s provenance, then immediately, you have to be very wary. “Unscrupulous dealers will often have elaborate reasons as to why this isn’t right, or why that isn’t the way it is – if your gut tells you to stay away, stay away. Don’t be tempted by the low price or the big name attached to the work.”

The knowledge that a painting is forged also seriously affects how a person views it. New research from Oxford University neuroscientists note that different parts of the brain are activated when viewing authentic and inauthentic paintings. When a person is told they are viewing an authentic painting, the part of the brain that corresponds with rewards, such as winning a prize and eating good food, is activated. When a person is told they are viewing a forgery, the part of the brain that corresponds with strategic thinking activates – indicating suspicion and negative feelings. Ms Preston said it was further evidence that paying thousands, or millions, for a suspect painting was just not worth it. “Our oil paintings are 100% copyright infringement free, you won’t risk your hard earned money and the completed artwork is as good as the original,” she said.

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