Buying Art on Ebay Part 3 of 3

This is part 3 of a very interesting article about buying art on Ebay, written for The Orientalist Gallery Blog by guest writer Mr. Lee Forman. I want to again thank Mr. Forman for being so kind to share his experiences and provide photos of his Ebay finds and for considering my work as "brilliant". The plug in the last paragraph came as a total surprise and put a big grin on my face. ~ Thank you !

Signature - you be the judge on the comparison below - which signature appears to be a genuine Miro?

The one at the far right is the answer. The one at left is typical of a counterfeit seller on eBay. He floods the market with bogus pieces of nonsense, claiming that he doesn't know if they are genuine - but says that they are 'original.' I agree - 'original rubbish.' The one in the middle is pretty good - but if you consider the real signature at the right - you can see the effortless sweeping of the lines - the automated process of affixing one's own mark. Miro's signature is perhaps more artistic than some of his work?

Dutch Masters, miniatures, etc - due to a very strong demand for such artwork during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, imitations of well known Dutch artists like Franz Hals, or David Teniers II of the 17th century, and miniature artists like Cosway and Hilliard of the late 18th and early 19th century, were rampant. Some are very good - but as imitations, have limited value. Also, the entire Tavern interior genre was mimicked repeatedly by other Dutch artists - even Teniers the Younger and Adrian Van Ostade were borrowing a concept original developed by Adriaen Brouwer. Here's an example of a Brouwer below - now consider that when looking at Ostade or Teniers - or an imitation of a Dutch Master - perspective, the attention to detail, scale, technique, etc. Notice how none of the participants are looking at one another - and all seem to be engaged in individual activities - also note - none are dwarves or midgets.

Students - what better way to learn than by imitation! So many students are charged with studying the work of a great artist, and reproducing a piece - to gain an appreciation for style, technique, use of color, etc. Years pass, and these innocent reproductions can fall into the wrong hands - innocently, or wrongfully, and with full knowledge that the artist didn't attempt two of the same pieces [with the one hanging in the Louvre being the better of the two]. Just add a signature and you're in business.

Aged paper - if you're not dealing with oil on canvas, or oil on board, then you are dealing with paper. A typical con used by the wrong sorts of people is to create their works - similar to the artist that they want to mimic, on aged paper. Don't be fooled - don't assume that yellowing, wearing of the corners, a tear or pinhole means that the piece wasn't done last week. Clearly some of these crooks buy old paper - or make use of work by minor artists verso, to stage their scams.

One example of a piece I should have never bought - it's my dream to one day own an original Karl Hofer - the opposite of 'intuitive repulsion,' I seem to suffer from 'intuitive compulsion.' I am strongly attracted to the work of a number of artists, including Hofer, whom I see as a genius. I found a piece on eBay, won the deal after quite a battle, and was ecstatic. The monogram looked good, even though it was at a bizarre angle. The work in question certainly had a similar look to Hofer - even though it didn't quite fit in with his other works. There was a label glued down verso, which appeared to provide provenance and information respecting it's exhibition. Well, after touching base with the expert Karl Bernhard Wohlert - I was surprised when I was informed that it was nothing of the kind of work Hofer would have done! I continued doing research on the label - the individual in question whose name was associated was a person of interest and significance whom had passed on. He was survived by his wife, who was in a nursing home. The nursing home sadly reported that she had also passed - only a short time ago - dead end. The published catalog which MAY have had a photo of the work during its exhibition in Switzerland ran for a number of years, and it was almost impossible to get a copy. I continued to examine the piece physically. While the stretcher and canvas said the time period was accurate, it had an area verso which had been sanded down - and it was obvious that this sanding had taken place within the last decade. By applying water to the area, we were able to make out some writing - which I photographed at high resolution and enhanced with a photoshop program. I also examined the piece with a backlight, and was surprised to find two areas of significant inpainting - at left, where the monogram appeared, as well as at the far right. Enhancing the photo of the writing verso led me to a street address in London and a partial name. Use of google searches took me to the name of the original artist - this piece was actually done by a minor artist - one whose auction records never exceeded $100.

What the crooks did was to cover over his signature at right, sand off his name and address from the canvas verso, add paint of a similar color at the left, add Hofer's monogram on top while the paint was still fresh, and then try to pass off the work as done by Hofer or 'his circle.' Luckily I managed to get my money back and learned a valuable lesson. Not a bad painting though.

Much like counterfeiting currency - you won't see a fake $1.00 bill anytime soon - because it just doesn't pay off. So it should be rare for an artist whose work only auctions for prices in the hundreds of dollars to be imitated, copied or counterfeited.

I was travelling on business, and visited a friend's apartment in Philadelphia. The apartment was filled with pieces collected over the years. Upon learning of my interest in collecting art, I was given a stern piece of advice: buy from contemporary artists and put them away. That is what this person did, and the collection at last estimate was valued at something close to a million dollars.

For example of a contemporary artist, let's look at Enzie Shamiri - don't think it would be fair to Blog on her site without a plug for a brilliant artist like Enzie. My personal favorite is Amal. Now that is a stunner.

Amal Oil Painting

eBay can be a lot of fun, and does on occasion list genuine pieces of art at incredibly low prices - however, these are few and far inbetween for the big named artists - and the onus is on the buyer to do all of their homework upfront. This homework represents a significant gamble, compounded by the auction clock ticking, with odds which can be greatly reduced by simply buying artwork direct from our contemporary artists, and watching for their increase in value over time while appreciating the work they have executed because it means something to you personally. Alternatively, I hope that some of the advice detailed above will be useful in avoiding any rash decision making, and repeating my mistakes.

Remember, art is truly subjective; it's true value can be found if it brings some kind of meaning to you, and you like it; you can't put a price or auction value on that.

Lee Forman in his own words ...
"Lee has no formal art training, no degree in art, and is not professionally qualified in any way to write the above article, but did so anyway. His own rudimentary blunderings at creating art can be found on eBay [Easter Island, Purple Study, Sunrise on the lake, etc.]"

Please feel free to share your experiences with us by leaving a comment.

~ Go to Part 2 ~

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