When you enter an art gallery, you’ll notice that they feature one of a kind paintings and sculptures in which bring many people peace just by looking at these masterpieces. Each piece has a special meaning that brings people feeling, peace, trust, and either happiness or a sense of sadness depending on the art piece.
However, people have found a way to bring their own sense of trouble at a place filled with peace. Scammers have found a way to trick the common art expert into purchasing either fake art pieces or tricking people into thinking that they are investing in an art piece they will never receive.
80-Year-Old Widower Loses Thousands of Dollars to Massive Lion Statue
For example, an 80-year-old Oregon man had just lost his wife and was looking to online date. He went on an unspecified dating app and found a woman who claimed to be from Florida. They started talking and their friendship grew stronger, eventually turning into a long-distance relationship.
As the “woman” started gaining his trust, she then persuaded him to invest in an art gallery in Florida. She wanted him to do this so that the art gallery can ship a 500-lb. lion from China to this Florida museum. She told him that the money he invested was going to help cover the shipping costs of the lion and that other people were investing money as well.
She claimed that in order to ship this lion to the United States, $5-million dollars would need to be raised. The widower was also told that he would get his money back once the lion sold in the United States.
The man donated to this “art museum” for five months before realizing it was all a scam. He lost a total of $200,000 due to this unusual catfishing scam, and will not get to see a massive lion statue being shipped into the United State anytime soon.
$80-Million Art Scam Lasted Fifteen Years
Some of the most sophisticated art collectors at a 165-year-old New York art gallery, The Knoedler Gallery, were fooled into buying “aged” art pieces that weren’t really aged. They would go to a woman named Glafira Rosales at this art gallery thinking they were buying pieces from big-time artists, but really they were buying art pieces that only looked like their work.
Rosales would convince these art collectors that the art they were looking at was special and by artist Mark Rothko; therefore, it’s worth millions of dollars. She claimed to represent a mysterious collector and the only name she gave her customers was Mr. X. She also said that there was more than that painting came from, claiming she had more works from Rothko and additional works from Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. If this were true, most art collectors would think that she won the art lottery.
In reality, Rosales was selling work from Chinese immigrant Pei-Shen Qian who imitated these artists’ styles and claimed that it was their work instead of his. He would throw tea or dirt from a vacuum cleaner on to his pieces to make his paintings look older than they actually were so that people couldn’t tell he was lying. By doing this, he was able to sell his pieces for millions of dollars versus what his pieces would actually be worth if he was honest.
Rosales was sentenced to only a mere three months in jail and was forced to give back the $80-million dollars she stole. She said that her abusive boyfriend, Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, put her up to scamming these art experts out of their hard-earned cash. Diaz ended up escaping to Spain along with his brother Jesus, along with Qian who escaped back to China.
The Knoedler Gallery employees and director, Ann Freedman, have stated that they were just as clueless as everyone else. They were not charged since they didn’t know that the artwork sold in their gallery was fake. However, many customers have filed lawsuits against the art gallery for not knowing that these pieces were fake. Therefore, they had to shut down The Knoedler Gallery after being in business for 165 years.
How to Avoid Art Gallery Scams as an Art Investor
- Don’t give money to anyone you haven’t met in person. If they refuse to video chat or meet you in person, yet they try and convince you to invest in an art piece, don’t buy into what they are saying. They are most likely a scammer trying to figure out ways to steal your hard-earned cash and know that most people like buying art pieces here and there. Unless you have met this person or have video chatted with them, do not invest in anything they have to offer.
- Don’t make deals with anyone that you don’t trust. If you have never made an investment in the salesperson’s pieces before, do your research on them and what they are selling before you buy their art pieces. Even if they are selling at a well-known gallery, it could be possible that the gallery hasn’t caught on to their wrongdoings so they allow that person to sell there. That’s why it is always important to research the artist they claim to be selling and see what art pieces they have done before buying from the new salesperson.
- Don’t buy anything from anyone who has pieces that are too good to be true. If the seller claims to have pieces from all these famous artists, yet you usually only find that many pieces from those artists in museums, research and ask your questions before buying their pieces. They could forge that artwork and claim it as another artists’ work and make it look dirty so that it looks like it’s been aged.
- Research the work you want to buy before purchasing it. If you are buying a painting or sculpture from a well-known artist, make sure you look up that piece you are buying to see if it was actually done by that artist. If you don’t see anything similar to what you’re buying and something seems off, do not trust that piece that the salesperson is selling and report them to your art gallery. You could also take a picture of the art piece you are buying and reverse image search the image to see if you find anything similar.
- If someone tells you a crazy story about shipping a 500-lb. statue across the ocean, it is probably a scam. It doesn’t have to be a lion, but if someone tells you a crazy art story similar to shipping a 500-lb. statue across the ocean, do your research before investing any money into the shipping or selling costs. Chances are there is no 500-lb. statue to ship across the ocean, and the person just wants your money.
When making an art purchase, be sure you remember these stories and tips to help guide you with whatever art piece you are buying. There is nothing worst than purchasing something that you thought was from your favorite artist, but in reality, it was made from a fake and you just lost out on thousands or millions of dollars. Be careful when purchasing artwork, and if you catch something fishy notify your art gallery and local law enforcement immediately.