At a recent Inland Marine Underwriters Association (IMUA) seminar Robert O’Connell III, President of O’Connell International Arts, Inc., spoke about ways to minimize art fraud. “The usual types of fraud I have encountered include misrepresentation of value through false appraisals, forgery of certificates of ownership, illegal copies of original works, and false advertising on sites such as e-Bay,” said O’Connell. “Art buyers need to ensure that if they buy ‘prints’, they’re not scanned versions of the original,” he added. Ideally, buyers or their agents should physically inspect the object(s) prior to purchase, show skepticism about certifications of authenticity, and inquire about the appraisal.
O’Connell says that collectors should ensure they get a valid appraisal that includes a comprehensive description of the work and where possible a comparison of the value to the recent sale of the artist’s works.
O’Connell also recommends the use of Art Object ID. To encourage its use, the Getty has recently published a manual, Introduction to Object ID: Guidelines for Making Records that Describe Art, Antiques, and Antiquities. The book summarizes the evolution of Object ID and provides guidance on its use. The book is available at www.getty.edu/publications.com.
Another way to prevent inadvertently buying stolen art, suggests O’Connell, is to check to see if the piece has ever been reported stolen through the Art Loss Register’s database which can be found at www.artloss.com.
People who have lost art can contact the FBI to get in touch with its newly formed unit – the National Art Crime Team.