Yiwei Zheng, an excellent example of why not to deal illegally in ivory and endangered species!

This article outlines a Nationalized U.S Citizen, Yiwei Zheng,

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(Image property of the Minneapolis StarTribune)

who has been arrested for being a trafficker in illegal ivory and rhino horn, minimally! If this all holds up to be true, which it appears it most likely is, this “Professor” deserves to go down for the rest of his life! He thought he was smarter than everyone else and therefore the rules did not apply to him. He wanted to play dishonest games that endangered our world heritage, and now he needs to be willing to accept the consequences of those actions equally to the greedy payoff he was seeking. If this is all true, clearly he was not smarter than everyone else, and he got caught red handed! If true, he is exactly the kind of person who is driving the extinction of the elephants and rhinos! I am shocked that St. Cloud State University is allowing him to continue teaching, shame on them! That is a poor decision when the charges are so sever and his behavior so blatant and arrogant! Is that really what St. Cloud State University wants to project to the world, that they support criminal traffickers in endangered species? I hope not, as a Minnesota Native. If, from the start, he would have just worked with United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), I am fairly certain he could have done very well for himself, his family and the world, he instead figured he was above the law and greedy! Let the cards fall where they may. Individual fines for selling ivory illegally can be in the hundreds-of-thousands of US dollars! And, enforcement of the existing laws have been increased significantly since 2014.

We have a direct relationship with the USFWS so that we can give our clients the most accurate advice on their ivory, rhino, and other endangered species art, antiques and artifacts! This is what we do, and we do it right from the beginning! If you need help with your unknown pieces, then please feel free to get in touch.

Enjoy the read:

http://www.startribune.com/local/298172091.html

Greg C. Brown, M.S., ISA AM.

info@asianappraisals.com

1-888-815-9430

The basic story of Yuanminyuan, and why China has a right to be militaristically defensive!

I have walked this location with my best friend from China on my first trip ever there in 1999. It was very moving, and it was profound how few Westerners were there to understand.

This is part of the truth about how the west treated China in the 19th century, and is in large part why they have slowly but surely developed a stronger and stronger military. It is also akin to why Jewish art must be returned to the ancestors of the owners after the Nazis took it in WWII. My issue is, until really the late 20th century, this was the world rule, when you concurred another country/culture, all spoils of war were taken permanently by the winning party… So, should China be required to give back all art and antiques from the Mongols, etc…? What is fair, it is a very hard questions, but it MUST go both ways, regardless of the country.

Enjoy the read, Greg C. Brown, M.S., ISA AM.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30810596

An excellent example of how hard it is to prove important art works…

An interesting article about possible proof of the only existing Michelangelo bronzes known to exist! This is a great example of how hard it is to prove important examples of art work and antiques.

People often do not understand the extreme importance of provenance and/or factual evidence and/or forensic evidence in authenticating and placing the highest possible values on important antiques and art works. Doing that work is no small process. I am asked all the time to do authentication work, however, people do not understand nor want to pay for that work and expect us to rubber stamp things, which any legitimate art and antiques professional will never do and which far too many un-credentialed appraisers and antique dealers do do. if you want a rubber stamp, look to them, not us, but expect trouble when you want to get your insurance, tax deduction or sell the piece.

Authentication can not be done without doing all of the necessary work, period. The commitment must be made to doing ALL of the necessary work every time. It is not cheep, it generally is a slow process, some times painfully slow, but it can be the difference between an appraisal of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars , and a few thousands  dollars or even a few hundred dollars. Therefore, in the end, if you truly believe you have the real thing, it is more than worth the costs involved in proving it, but you must commit to doing it right from the beginning and not getting cold feet or trying to cut corners. Otherwise,  the client does not believe it is what they say if they do not want to commit to the proper and full process of authentication work and spend the money on it. It is much like investing in the stock market, or gambling, you must study what you want to buy/game you want to play, and commit to the belief you know what you are doing, but know that some times you lose. However, if you do your research and training properly and intelligently, you have a much better chance to back up your belief in what you are doing.

I had a client who had two potentially important Chinese paintings, but they only wanted to go so far in proving their authenticity, which was not enough, and I explained that to them. I explained that more specialists needed to be involved, but they were only willing to allow one, which is not how to do it. You must have a consensus of experts, and the only specialist-expert I was allowed to consult with to give a second opinion, gave results that matched our preliminary results, which were that 1) we need more work to establish factual evidence, 2) the current evidence pointed to the works being very old reproductions, not originals, and so the expert was in agreement with these initial conclusions, which means, we must state the pieces were not originals. In the end, I had to go with the limited proof that they allowed me to establish, which showed the works were not originals. I actually do believed they may be originals, but without the client allowing all the necessary and proper authentication work to be completed, it is NOT possible to prove. And, thus, they had to be declared not to be originals, until after more evidence was compiled, no matter my personal opinion, as my job is to be unbiased, and unfortunately, that is the only unbiased decision that could be made under the limiting circumstances of the clients. The lesson as a client, you need to be willing to commit to the entire process and trust and allow us to do our work. Some times we will break your heart, however, when we prove authenticity, we will bring elation and significant value.

If this link  Proving authenticity is very hard!  does not work, here is the URL to copy and paste, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-31085336

Enjoy the read, Greg C. Brown, M.S., ISA AM.

 

 

Europeans and Native Americans shown to be ~25% related, I’m not surprised!

A great new finding has come to light showing just how related we all really are around this little globe we sail through space on together – not a surprise to me! This is a really great revelation in science and the human race at many levels, and has a direct impact on the research that I have been doing on the relationship between the Mongol-Siberian and Native American Shamans.

I have said for a very long time that, 1) the migration from Asia to the Americas happened significantly earlier than is currently accepted, and 2) there were a much larger number of migrations and migration routes (and thus mixing of peoples) than are also currently accepted. I have always believed that migrations occurred all up and down the Asian continent and down into the South Pacific, crossing over to the Americas. However, it was not until Dr. Denis Stanford’s fantastic work with the Solutrean Peoples of Europe and their stone point relationship to Eastern Native Americans did I believe that ancient migrations may have come from Europe to the Americans until about the time of the Vikings. However, it made perfect sense to me when I first learned about Stanford’s work from my Uncle, who went to Grad School and did field work with him.

However, even though this recent revelation of the genomic relationship between Europeans and Native Americans is not surprising to me, it has not been directly related to Stanford’s work yet, but I think it lends even more credence to it as being that much more possible, as it does similarly so to my own work. Enjoy the read, it is fascinating but commonsensical. “Why are we fussing and a fighting” when we all know we are all the same people? Here is more proof of that.

The amazing article from the New York Times: 24,000-Year-Old Body Shows Kinship to Europeans and American Indians

The image below come from http://www.wellspringcolumbus.org/Default.aspx?tabid=71

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Shame on all humans! Western Black Rhino has been declared extinct!

Shame on all humans! Western Black Rhino has been declared extinct!

Oh man! Please read the story in the link above! It is really, really terrible. My heart has sunk when I read it! What a loss to the entire history of life on earth, as there was absolutely no natural reasons for this to happen at this time other than ignorance, stupidity, selfishness and insatiable greed! So, fools, where are you going to earn your money now? I am very sorry for the human race’s inexcusable actions against all of my Black Rhino relatives… The main driving force behind this atrocity is the Chinese medicine industry’s ignorance and lack of desire to simply educate people and find a real solution to offer! In the US, we call this a snake oil sale man, and Doctors who do this are called quacks! Shame on any one saying they are a Healing Doctor who prescribed this, or anyone who preached this path to “health”! Also, the greatest of shame on all Governments  including my own and especially China (who would have had the greatest impact on stopping this from happening – if they could end foot binding, they could just as easily change the people’s perceptions of the use of Rhino horn as medicine!), who do not enforce international laws and CITIES on such critical issues! So, so sad!

The image from this article, below, is sadly of a now dead animal that was only recently one of the last living Black Rhinos on earth! We need to start to care and pay attention people, we have become blind to Mother Nature and her vital importance to our long-term survival!  We killed  off the Steller’s Sea Cow by 1768, only 27 years from first contact in 1741! The Elephants ARE next! Do we really want to kill off the largest living land animals? 

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Susan Fox, An interesting artist who is near and dear to my heart with her work

I have just had the pleasure of finding out about and meeting an interesting American artist from Oregon, Susan Fox, who is a fellow member of the Explorers Club with me. She creates wildlife art, but more interesting she loves oil painting wildlife art in Mongolia, one of my favorite places on earth, as well as other wondrous places as Kenya, the Sea of Cortez and North America! Susan captures a part of this with her use of natural soft lighting and gentle colors. Enjoy checking out her work. The images below come directly from Susan’s web site, found at: http://foxstudio.biz.

Enjoy, Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA, CAGA, MN ’09.

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If you have an interest in detecting fake art and antiques, go to Black Light World!

I am not one to promote other companies and people very often. However, I have found a company with total integrity, who only sell the real and proper black lights for working with fakes and counterfeits. Their prices are fair, they have excellent knowledge and their products are not flimsy cheap pieces, they are good quality. Please feel free to visit their site, and even let them know you found out about them here at my blog. The owner is a genuine and good person to boot: http://www.blacklightworld.com/Contact.htm.

The photo below comes from the website, http://www.lakesidepottery.com/Pages/Repairing-restoring-ceramic-porcelain-china-pottery-lessons-tutorials.html.

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Excellent short video discussion of how to handle and look at Chinese paintings!

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This is a really great discussion about, and of how to handle, view and enjoy traditional Chinese paintings by one of the worlds great Chinese painting scholars, Dr. Maxwell Hearn, the Douglas Dillon Curator of Asian art at no less than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Within this discussion you will hear the interesting treatment of perspective that is common in traditional Chinese painting and many similar Asian traditions of painting. People like retired U. C. Berkeley professor, Dr. James Cahill, discussed similar things about perspective in his work. While at one of the Asian Arts Curatorial Council meeting, to which I was a member from 2001 – 2010, my friend the retired Curator of Asian Art of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Dr. Robert Jacobsen, talked about the unusual nature of perspective as portrayed in Chinese painting as well. Perspective in these paintings can be very different from that generally employed by Western artists, so it some times looks and can even feel strange to westerners. However, this is part of what makes their style of painting so curious and interesting. Enjoy the video, which I originally found at the New York Times website, but I have found again here posted on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPmED0GbYUs.

The image above comes from the website Little Red Book, a Million Conversations, found at: http://www.littleredbook.cn/2009/04/13/construction-cranes-in-the-bamboo-forest-balancing-nature-and-urbanization-in-china-psa-advertising/. This site has an interesting discussion of Chinese paintings also worth reading. Enjoy.

Sincerely, Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA.

Christies to operate independently in China! Amazing!

Here is an interesting update on the Chinese auction market and how the major world players are dealing with it! Christies has made a really great and important move in this in my opinion by arranging with the Chinese government to operate independently. To US citizens this might seem like an odd comment. However, in China, generally the rule is you must enter into a joint venture to operate a business in China either with the government itself or with a private entity! Congratulations to Christies, I think this is a really important move and also will bring much more credibility to the Chinese auction market, which has been plagued by questionable practices frequently so far – even with their own citizens. Enjoy the read. http://www.artmarketblog.com/2013/04/09/christies-claims-first-independent-art-auction-in-mainland-china-artmarketblog-com/

The image below come directly from this article.

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Sincerely, Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA. Appraisals, Brokering, Buying and Consulting, Fine Art and Antiques, Specializing in Asian Art and Antiques, Fine Art Prints, Fossils, and other Fine Personal Property.

Coaching on being wary of even “major players” in the fine art and antique market.

“There are only four thousand Picasso etchings, and over seven thousand of them are in the United States”. Hahaha, I love that quote, which I picked out of a good short article which was presented to me in LinkedIn and come from the Art, Antiques and Luxury Design Blog. This article is a great teaching tool to new collectors on the subject of “Trust” in the fine arts and antiques buying world. Again, and I will talk about this over and over and over, provenance, trust and caution are critical, and the above quote and this article brings that home. I think that the quote would be more accurate if it said, “There are only four thousand Picasso etchings, and over thirty thousand of them are in the United States”. There are more fakes than real ones, I have no doubt about that. It also brings home the fact that just because an art or antique dealer “says it’s so” does not “make it so”, without proof that “it is so”, so ask for proof or hire someone like me to check it out for you before you buy. If they can not prove it, or we believe it is questionable, do not buy it, regardless of what your emotions want to do. There is always another cool thing just around the corner. Also, because the dealer is a “major player” or “well-known,” does not necessarily mean they are actually good at what they do or can be trusted, often ego and narcissism are involved, so “buyer beware” is THE RULE! Someone who tells you that they are not sure and/or need to look into various aspects and get back to you about it is far more trustworthy than someone who always knows every answer. Just ask yourself this, do you know everything about your highest expertise in your life, let alone all of your interests? If you do, you are a rare bird and congratulations! If you are in an art gallery that only sells Picasso works, they may indeed know almost everything about Picasso and his works, if you are not in such a specialty gallery, then you must be your best advocate with your money until you have the proof, then you can let your guard down.

I was just told a story 3 days ago about a situation where one of the wealthiest families in the US/world found they had been duped into thinking that they were buying monolithic antique Chinese ivory tiled statues. They had surely spent several hundred thousand dollars on them. When they later had them appraised, they were shocked and embarrassed to find out that they had been sold fakes made in the 1990’s! These statues still had value, about $10,000 each, but not hundreds-of-thousands! Ouch! So, wealth is not a barrier against being ripped off either. You must check your ego at the door when buying, and expect that you are being set up – period! The lesson from this, which I have previously written about, is that once you have found something you love, it is well worth paying a professional like me to pre-examine them before you buy. In this family’s case it would have been more than well worth flying me to China, if that is where they were purchased (I do not know that part of the story), let alone to another state, let alone to another city, etc., which costs are small compared to the loss due to fraud. Caution is the better part of valor (desire) in the fine art and antiques world. We (experts) are well worth the cost versus savings, and we might instead even help you find a real find for a really great price too.

Remember this, despite it being a sad fact, over 95% of all art and antique “dealers” are dishonest to one degree or another. Yes really! Let me state that again, over 95% of all art and antiques dealers are dishonest to one degree or another! Sometimes it is a small “addition” to the facts to try to “entice” you into being excited into buying, some times it is out right fraud. But what is the difference either way if you get ripped off? For me, the point is, even a little lie makes one dishonest forever, and it is unfortunately all too true that this behavior is rampant in this industry, which is very dangerous for a trusting new collector. Once a dealer has done it once with positive effect for their increase in sales, it has only one way to snowball, the wrong way. Yes, really, 95% – or more! And preaching that they did not know, or that the person who they acquired the piece from said so is not an acceptable excuse, unless they genuinely apologize, are curious about their error and what was found, do not put the piece back out for sale with the same information(let alone excluding the new information you bring to them) and most importantly pay you back in full, which may or may not include shipping costs. If they do this, I would still trust them, otherwise, do not! I had a very rare policy in the antiques industry for my old fine Asian art and antiques gallery, which was, if you could show me through an authority’s statement what I missed or why I was wrong about one of my descriptions/dating/etc., I would buy the piece back, with no expiration date, as long as I was still running the gallery. I never had a piece returned, because I up held my end of the bargain in being a dealer because I had done my work on each piece before I would put it on the floor for sale.

I continue to be shocked when I go into art and antique galleries by the huge number of terribly misidentified items, materials, dates, locations, etc. It is the dealers job to know, that is really what you are paying them for, to know the difference so you can be sure of what you are buying from them for your good money, right? Right! If their policy is “all sales are final”, then  you can ask them to modify that policy and put it in writing on the receipt, it must be in writing! If they will not, then you can bet they do not know their business. The reverse of this is that they might miss something valuable, and you may come across a great find cheap! It does go both ways if you know more than they do.

The lesson a beginner needs to get, be smart, do not fall for the sexiness of what you are being told and look for red flags! Make sure all aspects can be backed up including the medium things are made in/what they are made of and what the provenance is! Before buying expensive pieces, have them put those facts in writing. If they don’t, be careful! Legit dealers have true confidence in what they are selling and have no problems putting it in writing. To be successful as a real collector,  you must deal with caution with everyone in the art and antiques industry at every level until you have a long and very well established relationship that is built on results, which then produces trust. This is exemplified in this story. The other important thing to understand is the wise old statement that “extraordinary claims, require extraordinary proof.” In the case in this article, the story falls apart very quickly, as there was no provenance and the “dealer” could not even properly identify the medium used to create the work! This is like having an aircraft carrier sized red flag being waved right in front of your face – “BUYER DO NOT TRUST THIS LISTING!” So, have a nice read, the article can be found at: http://art-antiques-design.com/2013/03/25/educating-art-buyers-part-2-by-lawrence-klepper/?goback=%2Egde_153474_member_226094189. The image below is from http://www.rottingtelevision.com/lmfao-big-red-flags-blog/.

Which are you looking at? The sexiness “of the piece” or the red flag? Final question, which is going to win, your emotions or your intellect? It is your choice, choose wisely! And, do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help! We may save you thousands, hundreds-of-thousands or even millions of dollars! Well worth our costs.

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Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA.