Fake art like fake news has been making headlines lately, but where do you go to buy it? Invaluable the online auction platform who lists respected international firms such as Sotheby’s, Swann and Tajans as “Auction House, Gallery & Dealer Partners” is a good place to start. The platform is not doing enough to protect their buyers from rogue dealers using the service to sell fake artworks, by named artists. The operation is turning a blind eye to the sale of fake 19th and 20th-century master paintings, drawings and other works of art, openly sold on their website.
Works by blue-chip artists are more likely to be found at established auction rooms like, Christie’s, Sotheby’s Bonham’s and Phillips, in their Impressionist, Contemporary and Modern sales. However, names like Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Basquiat and Warhol are also here on Invaluable at knock-down prices. A painting that should sell for several million dollars is here to buy starting at $20,000. Are the alarm bells ringing? If not they should be.
Invaluable has been warned by authoritative voices about forged artwork being sold by one particular dealer, the Woodshed Gallery, located close to the Invaluable headquarters in Boston Massachusetts, but instead of taking action, they have chosen not to intervene. When contacted by Artlyst, last Summer, Invaluable refused to respond to our calls and questions. The person we spoke directly to on the phone, was cagey about giving his name however, we were assured that our queries would be investigated and Invaluable took such reports seriously. The Woodshed Gallery have continued to run sales on Invaluable for the past few months, uninterrupted. This unprofessional behavior by Invaluable has led us to to lose all confidence in the company’s long established reputation.
Professional auction companies and Art/Antique dealers do not want to be associated with a platform that openly sells fake works of art or goods. Even eBay has cleaned up their act and has a policy banning members who try and deceive the less experienced public, which also make up the lion’s share of Invaluable’s customer base.
It is high time that rogue sellers such as the Woodshed Gallery whose Invaluable auctions carry deceptive descriptions are banned from selling online. Here is an example of one of their disclaimers, “This lot is listed as attributed because it has a partial or missing provenance. Attributions and identifications are based in part on our careful study and are not guaranteed. Unless stated otherwise in the catalog description, no further provenance or additional information is currently available for this lot. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions prior to bidding. Color fidelity of photos presented is not guaranteed. Lack of a condition statement does not imply that a lot is perfect. Please examine photos, read descriptions, and contact the Gallery with any questions prior to bidding. All sales are final.”
This is a typical Woodshed Gallery lot description: “Description: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) (Attributed*, in the manner of the artist “Provenance: Private collection, Illinois; Private collection, Hungary; Collection Mr. De Nul, Belgium; Auction, London; Found during a house demolition in Lausanne, Switzerland.” This is not an acceptable provenance for a legitimate work of art. The lot carries an estimate of $60,000-$70,000. If this were an authentic Picasso, it would be worth several million dollars. This auction lot is aimed at the inexperienced collectors market. We suspect that these works, if sold at all, are going to countries such as China and Russia where unsuspecting amateur collectors are being duped.
We have shown the Woodshed auction titled ‘Prestige Signature Collection: Rothko, Kline, Motherwell, Monet, Basquiat, Van Gogh, Warhol’ to experts who believe that this is the work of an inferior forger. A Basquiat expert commented “Terrible fake not even a good fake!” The photos don’t even try to hide the fact that these are modern, poorly executed forgeries with unconvincing signatures. The so called expert who has sanctioned the works at The Woodshed Gallery is none other than Bruce Wood the owner of the gallery, proving no third party has been involved in attempting to authenticate any of the lots. We place the value of most of these works at less than $200, and this is for decorative value only.
The Artfix Daily referred to the three works by Mark Rothko in the sale on the 1 November in a report (draw your own conclusions), “Considering we were assembling an auction of small-scale paintings and drawings, it was a surprise to have three rather large Rothko paintings delivered from a Peruvian estate,” said Bruce Wood, owner of Woodshed Art Auctions. “We’re lucky that the former owner saved a few receipts, and they can be traced back to the 1960s. Paperwork like that is key when estimating.”
Wood added, “One of the exciting things about these paintings is their 1948 date, when Rothko was formalizing his mature style. One even has evidence of being done over an older abstract composition, which falls in line with reports of his experimenting to find his new direction, and perhaps destroying his old work in the process. We expect all three works will do quite well.” We are eager to know what the Rothko estate would have to say about Mr Wood’s comments.
Invaluable could use the age old argument that Woodshed is accurately describing the works for sale by using the grey-area terms “In the manner of” or Attributed to” but this is still very much a case of deception and goes against the spirit of fair trading within the auction industry. The Woodshed lots are attempting to legitimise the works by carrying serious estimates ranging from several thousand dollars to several hundred thousand.
Rogue dealers using Invaluable to sell forgeries should be closed down and banned by the website. It is clear that Invaluable is not self-regulating effectively and if they continue on this trajectory they should be forced to cease trading. In an unregulated market, it is difficult to challenge multinational companies like Invaluable in the courts, as they insist they are only providing a platform for others to sell their goods.
The next Woodshed sale ends November 1, 2017 12:00 PM EST Caveat emptor!
Words: Nina Farrell Photos: Via Invaluable and Twitter
See The Woodshed Gallery Auction, ‘Prestige Signature Collection: Rothko, Kline, Motherwell, Monet, Basquiat, van Gogh, Warhol’ Here