Having run an art gallery in New Orleans for 8 years and two online art galleries, European Art Underground and New Orleans Art Exchange alongside it, I have some advice about how not to get ripped off buying antique paintings.
I will keep this at a high level rather than dipping down into the weeds. I have some deeper advice you can find by reading my blog.
First and foremost, what you do NOT want is to buy a painting that wasn’t painted by the person who ostensibly signed it. This would sound ridiculously obvious, but it happens every day. That’s because it’s quite easy to find an at least decently well-known painter whose work looks like the painting you have, research what the painter’s signature looks like (easy), and forge it.
What’s harder for fakers to do is fake a really well-painted painting.
This takes quite a lot of skill, and it’s usually only done to fake painters whose value is a lot higher. You won’t find someone gaining the skill to paint something that passes as a high quality 19th-century portrait only to put the name of a painter on it whose paintings sell for, say, $1,000. They’re going to go for over $5,000, you can bet.
Go to my blog and you will find three articles about how to avoid fake paintings.
Buying paintings on eBay? Not so fast.
Secondly, I’d advise you to be very careful on eBay. Yes, there are great paintings on there. I’ve bought them myself. But there are a LOT of frauds. (I’ve bought those too, by accident, and I know what I am doing!). Yes, eBay has guarantees and a feedback system that works to help keep good customer service, but what good is any of that if you never have a clue that the painting you got is a fake?
Same goes for other online dealers you don’t know, whether on eBay or anywhere else. You would be surprised at how many “art dealers” are actually just going to yard sales and Salvation Army stores looking for things to resell. Maybe even to add a signature to . . .
Buying art at art galleries. Pricey.
Art galleries have high overhead. I know. I owned one.
Guess how they cover this overhead? Yes, you guessed it. So while it is great fun to browse art galleries, remember that you’re paying at least a 100% markup at most of them. And they don’t NECESSARILY have the expertise to know if they themselves have a few forgeries on hand they are unwittingly going to sell to some naïve customer.
Buying painting online: today’s answer.
Unlike in a gallery, online you can see hundreds of thousands of painters rather than, say, the work of 30 or so in the gallery’s stable. Yes, sure, it’s nicer to see the work in person. But if you buy online ONLY from dealers you trust with a strong guarantee, there’s no risk anyway. In fact, it can be less risky than buying from a brick-and-mortar gallery that might or might not take back work once you walk out the door with it, then decide you don’t like it or notice something that bothers you.
Be careful out there. Keep collecting art, but don’t let yourself be taken advantage of buying antique paintings. It’s easy enough to avoid with just a bit of savvy!