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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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.

Another interesting article on the art collecting market from the New York Times.

Here is another interesting article on the art market from the New York times. There are things to be aware of if you plan to enter into this high-end part of the art market, such as the ghost bidding. I have been given both good and bad comments about why this is legitimate or not from prominent auction house owners and employees here in the US, who I am not going to name for confidentiality sake. However, I think the key here is to be aware that this happens before you go in bidding, as it may change your bidding structure, and it will minimally protect you and inform you of the bidding process.

Enjoy the  read and learn, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/arts/design/as-art-market-rise-so-do-questions-of-oversight.html?pagewanted=all.

Sincerely, Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA, CAGA.                                                                                         gregcbrown@asianappraisals.com

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Some basic advice for new art collectors/new collections.

The first thing is, to educate yourself about the area or areas you want to collect in, and not just read one book, but do it in-depth, become a scholar. Otherwise, expect to get burned if you do it alone and with limited education about what you are interested in. It is when a “collector” gets lazy or when they find that they think they know enough that they will get caught by a shyster. Ego gets in the way much more than you think it does, “because I have studied enough already!” There is really never “enough”, because the fakers and fraudsters are aways trying to stay one step ahead of the art historians and especially the uneducated public.  The one thing that you must be exceptionally careful about and understand is that this industry has more conmen/conwomen in it than there are honest people! I hate to say it, but it is true, and you must get it – so only work with people who have stellar reputations and/or have been recommended to you by people you truly know and trust. Be careful every time you buy!

At the beginning you really should use a consultant to work with OTHER than the dealer themselves – dealers have a distinct interest – their own, no matter how friendly and helpful they are. Here is a small example of this, I had a friend refer his father-in-law to me because he wanted to start collecting art and had thought he found a little gold mine in a shop north of the Twin Cities. My friend convinced him to consult with me, and he did. Of the 6 “Fine Art Prints”, 2 x Picasso, 2 x Chagall and 2 x Warhol, all moderate sized, 3 were fake and he did not want to spend the money on the Warhols to have them authenticated appropriately, to which I told him I would have to err on the side of them being forgeries based on the fact that I had two Warhol experts both say they thought they were fakes! Only 1 Picasso was real! I saved him over $14,000.00 USD because he knew enough to know he needed help because he was new to collecting! A good consultant will be happy to teach you and help you head off on your own way. This in turn will allow you to create trust in them so that in the future, if you are not sure, you will always have them to contact and work with again – for which they will be very happy to have the repeat business and trust. Good luck.

The “China’s Terracotta Warriors” Exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts!

I found the “China’s Terracotta Warriors, The First Emperor’s Legacy” exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to be excellent and fascinating. It was well worth the extra money to have the recording device along with me and listen to the extra tidbits that came after the main presentations for the numbered pieces. I do not think for me it was so much about learning the history, which I indeed did learn new information about, but about being able to get another excellent chance to get up close and personal with the pieces and examine the patinations, workmanship, colors, craftsmanship and stylistic changes within the chronology of the Qin Dynastic Period that hit me.

I say, “again” as I had the great fortune back in 1999, when I was invited to consider doing my Ph.D. in Paleontology (a long story) at Beijing University (Peking University/Beijing Daxue) and was at one of the little museums on campus with my friend Dr. Sun, and one of the Terracota Warriors was free-standing there in the museum, with no ropes or barriers separating him from me. I asked Sun if I could touch it and examine it closely and he said, “Yes, it is okay”, so I started to do so. However, I was very abruptly snapped at by the ever-present guards, they are everywhere in China. However, Sun turned to the guard, and said something I did not understand, and the guard replied and did a 180 on his left heel and faced the wall. Sun then said, “It is okay, go ahead”! I was able to examine both visually and tactilely this Ancient portrait in clay of this warrior, to connect with this man after 2000 years was amazing. What, you may ask, did it feel like? It felt like very dry terra-cotta, as was to be expected, with a fine, but rough surface, and very solid, yet fragile and hollow. It was a great pleasure and honor.

So, back to the MIA exhibit, these people were truly amazing artisans, for example the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BCE) bronze short sword with the amazing openwork gold and turquoise inlaid hilt, the Jades and Bronzes, and of course the life-sized+ Terracotta warriors and Horses, one of the horses is so well made it even has a proper butt-hole – yes, really, a proper anus! The other horse does too, but not so, dare I say it, impressive and realistically portrayed! For me the most interesting part was the green face of the kneeling archer, which is speculated to possibly be designating him as a Shaman-Warrior. I have been studying the similarities of Mongol-Siberian and Native American Shamanism in my Explorers Club Expeditions in Mongolia (another story for later).

This exhibit will only tour to three cities in the USA, 1) Discovery Times Square, in New York City (which is finished), 2) Minneapolis at the MIA (October 28, 2012 – January 20, 2013) and 3) the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. (February 22, 2013 – May 27, 2013).

I do highly recommend going to this exhibit. See below for further information.

Here is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts website about the tour: http://www.artsmia.org/terracotta-warriors/preview.html

Here is the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco’s info: http://terracotta-warriors.asianart.org/exhibitions/terracotta-warriors

Enjoy, Greg C. Brown, M.S.; ISA, Member.

The image below was taken from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Website. It is of the Green Faced Kneeling Archer! Very cool!

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