Art Crimes

Art Crimes Awareness: Ebay and the Modern Forger

The Monuments Men Foundation for Art the Preservation of Art’s facebook page, which by the way is one of the best resources out there for information about cultural heritage advocacy, recently linked to this article from The Daily Beast about art forgery on eBay.

NOT something you should try to buy on eBay!
Pablo Picasso, 1911, Still Life with a Bottle of Rum, oil on canvas, 61.3 x 50.5 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

My first reaction was that anyone who thinks they’re going to buy a Picasso on eBay deserves whatever they get. I feel like everyone should know that eBay is not the right venue to purchase high end works of art. For example, try searching eBay for ancient Egyptian antiquities. Prepare to be simultaneously amused and frightened.

After some though, however, I realized that I may have initially been a bit unfair. As a fine art research consultant, I have worked for a variety of art dealers – all very reputable establishments who sell high quality objects in the traditional marketplace. Yet almost every one of them also has an eBay presence, and most have had a good deal of success there. Perhaps the key thing to note is that they sell a different class of item on eBay than they do it the traditional market These items are not necessarily of lower quality, but they are perhaps somewhat less rare or interesting and were usually acquired in a large lot along with more significant items. Dealers also use eBay to sell niche items whose collectors are best reached in that way. The important thing is that these dealers do not try to sell masterpieces in eBay, because it’s not the most appropriate marketplace for such sale. I think it’s important for people to understand this concept if they do not already. Some sales are only meant to take place on Madison Avenue (or its European equivalents), and anyone offering you such a sale in the same place you can buy used electronics and homemade clothing should be treated with the utmost suspicion.

Do you buy and sell on eBay? If so, what types of items are you comfortable purchasing there? Do you think there is a legitimate place for eBay in the fine art and antiques market? Would you ever consider buying a masterpiece online if you thought it was an undiscovered treasure?

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