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On Last Week’s Art Fraud

March 25, 2008

From the FBI:

CHICAGO-An international investigation of the production and sale of counterfeit limited edition fine art prints of renowned artists, has resulted in federal criminal charges against seven defendants, including three Europeans and residents of Florida, New York and Illinois, U.S. and Spanish law enforcement officials announced today. Two separate indictments allege that the defendants sold thousands of counterfeit prints-at prices well in excess of their value-to victims in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan. The indictments allege that the defendants together reaped more than $5 million in illegal proceeds from the separate, but overlapping fraud schemes. In both cases, investigators tracked the distribution of bogus works, purportedly by such artists as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miro, Andy Warhol and others, from counterfeit distributors to an art dealer in north suburban Northbrook, who allegedly sold the inauthentic prints to victims, primarily through eBay, an internet auction web site.

The Northbrook dealer, Michael Zabrin, principal in Fineartmasters and Zfineartmasters, was charged in one indictment, together with the three European alleged counterfeit artwork distributors and a Florida art dealer. A second Northbrook man, James Kennedy, principal in KFA of Illinois, Inc., was charged in the second indictment together with an alleged distributor of counterfeit artwork based in New York.

More here.

First, I should say that I agree with other statements from the Feds, buyers are entitled to get what they paid for (i.e. everything should be what it says it is).  That said, people need to stop buying Dali, Lichtenstein and Warhol posters, er, prints.  They may have been fine for your college dorm but now it’s time to move on.  Sure it’s cool that the swans become elephants in the pond reflection, but it’s time to develop one’s taste a little further.  Unfortunately you can’t get a good Warhol for less than $100K, you can get warhols but not a Warhol.  Lichtenstein, the same thing.  It’s not like Pop art is dead, it’s quite alive and lots of artists are producing work in that vein.  At the press conference a FBI agent said the only way to be sure a print is by the particular artist is if you buy it directly from them and see them sign it.  My thoughts exactly, support your local artists, stop buying the same stuff that freshmen put up next to a picture of John Belushi chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels wearing his College sweater.

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