|"It is my opinion that there are forgeries of paintings being sold on the Internet, at auction houses and in galleries that are represented as my father's work, sometimes with the signature 'S.C. Yuan.'|
"To protect the investment of past and present collectors and to validate the value of the art work, I urge you to research the painting you are interested in before purchasing.
"Over the years I have had numerous people contact me for the authenticity of their painting after the fact. Most of the time we were able to give them good news, but not always. I urge you to Do Your Homework before making a purchase!"
The following article about art fraud was published by the Federal Trade Commission in April 1994:
The scam is old, but the twist is new: peddling fraudulent art as an investment. Every year, American consumers lose hundreds of millions of dollars in phony investments. The Federal Trade Commission prosecutes many of these scam artists - people who ask consumers to spend money on art schemes.
Now some con artists are selling counterfeit paintings, art prints, like lithographs and etchings, of the works of famous artists. Some of the most popular are fake "prints" of artists such as Salvadore Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Joan Miro.
Consumers from all segments of life - doctors, farmers, stockbrokers, housewives, and even other artists - are targeted for these phony sales pitches. If you are taken in by a false art sales pitch, what you get is often much less than promised. After paying anywhere from $500 to $3500, you may get art work valued at no more than $50, or the equivalent of a poster you might buy at a museum.
Many of these bogus pieces are simply copies of original works of art produced without the artists' knowledge or authorization. Other examples are counterfeit art pieces produced in the styles of well-known artists. In each case, a consumer has bought a counterfeit "work of art," which is worth, at best, a fraction of its sales price.
How To Protect Yourself
Although there may be no foolproof way to protect yourself if you decide to invest in art, the following suggestions may be helpful:
GET PROFESSIONAL ADVICE - The technology for reproducing and imitating art is so sophisticated today that even experts may have trouble detecting fraudulent work without careful study. Most people cannot tell the real thing from a fake. Therefore, it is very important to consult a reputable local authority on the subject, such as an art appraiser or museum curator, before purchasing any work of art attributed to a well-known artist. In addition, ask the seller for specific information about the art, such as the edition size, the type of print (such as lithograph, etching, silk screen, or woodcut), the year of publication, and the printer/publisher--all of which will help an expert evaluate the work. California law requires the dealer to give you such information.
BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL ABOUT BUYING ART WORK OVER THE TELEPHONE - It is very difficult for consumers to gauge the value and authenticity of a work of art or the credentials of an art firm by telephone. Even a trial examination period or a money-back guarantee may not protect you. Many consumers have found that once they agree to examine a piece of art and give out their credit card number, it is nearly impossible to get their money back. In addition, you may want to check with the Better Business Bureau and State Attorney General to determine whether complaints have been lodged against the company contacting you. Be aware, however, that many fraudulent telemarketing companies frequently change their names, so there may be no complaints registered against them.
BE SKEPTICAL OF AUTHENTICITY CLAIMS - Fraudulent companies typically distribute "certificates of authenticity" and other documentation that are meaningless. Authenticating documents or certificates are only as reliable as the firm that backs them. And some companies may refer you to "art appraisers" who are being paid by the firm peddling the fraudulent art.
BE SUSPICIOUS OF PROMISES OF GREAT INVESTMENT RETURNS AND HIGH-PRESSURE SALES TACTICS - Fraudulent offers typically revolve around the idea that, unless you act now, you will be passing up a terrific investment opportunity. But remember - no offer is so good that it cannot wait for a cool professional examination. Ask yourself: if this offer is so good, why is a total stranger making the effort to sell me this investment?
What to Do if You Have Problems
If you buy a work of art and discover fraud, first try to resolve your dispute with the company that sold you the art piece. If you are not satisfied, contact the Better Business Bureau, State consumer protection agency, or State Attorney General to report the company. You also can contact the National Fraud Information Center at 1- 800-876-7060 (9:00 am - 5:30 pm, EST, Monday - Friday).
The Center will forward your complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC generally does not intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may help establish a pattern of law violations by a company that could result in legal action by the FTC.