Art fraud and forgery is a sad but very real problem facing South African art buyers. Art works by deceased artists are still being forged, churned out and marketed as the real thing by unscrupulous art dealers long after the artist has gone off to that art atelier in the sky. A very prevalent example of an artist whose works are forged at present is the artist Father Frans Claerhout. Various exposés in the media of fake Claerhout paintings and the people behind them serve to drive home just how common a problem this is.What does one do to avoid a forgery?
Here are a few things to consider:
Is the painting too cheap? Forgers are greedy and will seldom market a painting at, or near its true value. They will offer big discounts that an honest art dealer, who had to buy the artwork for resale, just cannot compete with. Forgers, after all, don't mind selling at reduced rates because they have an unlimited supply.
Are there just too many? When an artist dies, the production of his works is meant to come to an end. Some owners will wish to cash in on their investment at the new inflated prices, so there will usually be an initial run on buying and selling the deceased artist's work. This flurry of activity eventually quietens down, prices begin to stabilise and finally calm returns to the market. After this stabilisation pieces of the artist’s work will then come up for sale from time to time. If however, years after an artist's death, a whole collection of new works appears on the market, questions must be asked.
Context and Provenance
Can the painting be associated with a distinct phase in the artists life, and thereby be dated accordingly? Can the seller of the painting tell you where and when he bought the painting and who owned it before he did? If one follows this process of enquiry, one ought to end up back at the artist himself— usually with an art dealer or one or more private owners along the way. If a seller claims to have bought a huge collection of paintings directly from the artist, and has been keeping them for years as an investment, than the chances are good that his claim can be authenticated by supplying: dates, names of people he met while putting the deal together, and possibly even proof of payment. Few artists are hermits; usually there are many people who can verify that a large deal was in fact struck. In Claerhout's later years, because of the forging of his works, he would often have a photograph taken of himself with the painting to authenticate the work.
Signs of Aging
Does the painting have any signs of aging? Even a painting that is just a year or two old has signs of aging. Paintings are handled, framed and re-framed; and they bear the scars, however small, of these processes. If a painting looks like it just came off the easel, it probably did.
Question the Authenticity
Have you asked for authentication? If you are going to spend money on someone else's product, it is your right to ask for a degree of authentication. The more money you spend; the better your efforts to verify the authenticity of the art piece ought to be. Ask for a certificate of authenticity-- even though these certificates are often printed by the dealer himself and are usually not worth much, they are at least documented proof that the seller sold the piece as an original work of art.
People will often go to great lengths to convince themselves that a painting which they are buying is genuine, just so that they can believe that have achieved a work by that artist at an absolute bargain. Common sense is a wonderful tool for combating this tendency. If you buy a painting and are doubtful as to the authenticity thereof, consult an expert. If the deal is too good to be true … Well, you know the rest.
This article was contributed by Pharos; an art seller on bidorbuy. You can see Pharos’ listed items in the art section.