Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Art Fraud or Fraud Art?

Earlier this week, on Monday, August 19, 2013, numerous new sources reported the case of a Long Island art dealer gone bad. "A "disposition" of fraud charges against wealthy Sands Point art dealer Glafira Rosales, which could include a guilty plea, is likely soon." (Go to http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/fraud-charges-expected-against-sands-point-art-dealer-1.5920912.)

Although the case is interesting enough just for the sake of the intrigue, greed and gullibility of various art dealers, brokers and galleries, and for the various duped buyers who have nothing better to do with their money than to conspicuously spend their money, I thought there was a deeper and even more interesting story involved.

Exactly how does one sell art work that is fraudulent and ultimately, so it is claimed by some, worthless, for $80,000,000?  How does art go from being worth millions to worth nothing when its appearance remains unchanged?  Is the "Mona Lisa" priceless only because DaVinci painted it or because it is a infinitely impressive work of art?  If the paintings of DaVinci, Picasso, Rembrandt, VanGogh, and others were not stunning in the first place, would their paintings be so valuable?  The answer is: they wouldn't be.

Fraudulent paintings are detectable by their lack of the evidence of genius that true paintings by these great artists do reveal.  The brush strokes, the shadings, the vibrancy, the realism or even surrealism, cannot be faked well.  VanGogh's technique was remarkable and unique; DaVinci's attention to detail, unbelievable. Have you seen a Rembrandt painting in person?  You cannot forget it.

Mimicry, however, often reveals itself in noticeable ways and although fraud does occur on occasion, it is difficult to get away with.  I  have read about paintings identified as created by a master when it was, in fact, a student of the master who created it.  The thing is, the painting probably had great merit on its own. $80,000,000 for this supposedly fraudulent artwork, however, seems to be an unbelievable lapse in value judgment by so many people.  How was this possible?

In this case the artwork being sold was not by a great past master; the artwork was of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and other modernist or Postmodernist painters.  And this is the "problem."  Take a look below.

Which of these are the authentic Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock and which are not?

Well, what does it really matter?  This style of painting is beyond criticism, I guess, when experts, art galleries and "serious" collectors lavish $80,000,000 on paintings that turn out to be "worthless."  If some of these paintings are indeed fraudulent, and therefore "valueless," it must mean that their appearance has nothing to do with their value.  But then, what did their appearance have to do with their value previously, when, one would think, their appearance is the basis upon which you should value them?

Here is the answer to the question about which are which of the above paintings: The third painting is the authentic Jackson Pollock, the fourth is the Robert Motherwell and the fifth is the authentic Mark Rothko. Number 2 is a probable fraudulent Rothko and the first one - was painted by an elephant.  Which would you want on your home's wall?

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