Art Buyers - Beware of Online Auctions (Part 1)

Jeffrey Hauser

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The following is an actual listing on an online auction site that shall remain nameless, although it rhymes with me-say. Anyway, the following posting under “art for sale” is reprinted here without any alteration:

(TITLE) “Ink drawing, 2 Nudes, signed PICASSO, Not a PRINT!! Size 14 x 11 unframed wonderful Picasso work”

(DESCRIPTION) “This is a COMPLETELY ORIGINAL ink drawing on paper signed clearly PICASSO and is MOST definitely NOT A PRINT. The work shows a little staining and has slight discoloration. The paper measures a little over 14" x 11 inches and overall is in excellent condition and appears to have been kept in a folder most of it's existence. it is unframed and would like great professionally framed and mounted. This would preserve and protect this wonderful piece SIGNED PICASSO of what appears to be 2 NUDE Harem women in a rather relaxed pose.

While the signature is Picasso and the work is certainly IN THE MANNER of Picasso, this drawing is sold without provenance and I have not attempted in anyway to retain provenance though certainly the winning bidder may wish to enter into this process. The work came from an antique sale and was purchased some other artwork in a folder along with other works which I will list herein in the coming weeks so keep watching. In the meantime, his work can be guaranteed ONLY to be an ORIGINAL ink drawing on paper in the manner of Pablo Picasso. It cannot be guaranteed to be Picasso although it MOST CERTAINLY could be!

I am starting this work at a very low opening bid, actually less than I paid for all the works I purchased along with this one and I am confident this work, a beautiful and exquisite ink drawing and possibly the REAL THING will find it's proper value among discriminating art buyers. ” (end of description)

So, what have we really got here? It appears we have a Picasso, although no where does the dealer actually say it is a Picasso. Rather it’s drawn in the manner of Picasso, whatever that means. It could be a Picasso and even has a signature like that of Picasso. But it could just as easily be a drawing by Fred Jones or Bill Smith. There is no provenance or proof that it came from any estate or trusted dealer. Yet the word Picasso appears 8 times in the text. Someone certainly wants us to think it is a Picasso. As of the time of this article, with 17 hours left on the auction, there have been 7 bids and the current one stand at $405 plus $15.95 for shipping. All for basically a piece of paper.

What have you learned form this example? Perhaps that all is not as it seems. Beware of copy that is full of terms like, “in the manner, no guarantee, possible the real thing, and appears to be. ” Also watch for out for very low prices and a total lack of paperwork such as a certificate of authenticity, although that too can be worthless at times. That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate deals online, but you need to do your due diligence and research first so that you don’t get taken to the cleaners. I’ll have other examples in future articles, but for now, class dismissed.

Jeffrey Hauser was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. He has authored 6 books and a novel, “Pursuit of the Phoenix. " His latest book is, “Inside the Yellow Pages" which can be seen at his website, Currently, he is the Marketing Director for a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.


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