When it comes to art, name recognition is as big a factor as it is in the fashion industry. People are willing to pay a bundle for Nike shoes, Gucci bags, Burberry coats, etc., and when they see an original Picasso lithograph being offered for $50,000 they think they’re getting the deal of a lifetime. Except it’s a scam and all they get is a piece of rubbish. Today’s GUARDIAN reports how ‘Bargain’ Picassos netted fraudsters $20m with their cable TV show ‘Fine Arts Treasures Gallery’. Nearly 10,000 people lost their money when they received cheap photocopies or prints instead of the original artwork they thought they had bought. While the Los Angeles couple who orchestrated the scam are being prosecuted and face prison terms, their victims will have a hard time to get their money back — the couple has filed for bankruptcy.
Not a surprising story really, but it brought up some questions. Why are people so fixated on brand names? Why do they automatically go for a Picasso or a Chagall rather than look for paintings by an as yet unknown artist? Is some work with a huge price tag and by a dead painter ipso facto a great piece of art? I know, these are more or less rhetorical questions with either obvious or impossible answers. Still, I wish I’d be able to find more sense in the art market.
The online gallery where I sell my photographs, flat grey wall, features a few excellent painters. One can only hope that they find collectors who are discriminating enough to see value in the work rather than in the name.