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.

 

 

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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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My real focus is the crocodile skulls, but what an interesting woman.

The link below for this article is focused on a very early (rare) woman who was a self-taught Paleontologist about 200 years ago. She had all of the advantages anyone would ever want in life, let alone buying a large estate that was near to the very fossiliferous cliffs that would capture her curiosity and made her famous in her day – that always helps a lot! However, at the same time, she was brave and self-confident enough in a time when this was not only rare but often frowned upon. We can all learn something from her bravery and willingness to live life to it’s fullest. She was clearly very passionate and skilled.

My real point of this posting though, has to do with the HUGE fossil skull in the image. This beast was about 10 meters long, and could have easily eaten a human whole in one bit! The largest crocs today are about 5-6 meters, or about 1/2 of the size of this fossil crocodile specimen!  An average modern croc skull is what you see inside of the jaw of this giant. It was HUGE! Enjoy the read. The Image below comes directly from the article, which is found at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/dinosaurs/7829705/Barbara-Hastings-the-first-lady-of-fossils.html.

Sincerely, Greg C. Brown, MS, ISA.

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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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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.

The actual violin played on the Titanic and a great lesson about authenticity and value.

Here is a really cool article from the BBC about probably the single most iconic possible item from the wreck of the RMS Titanic! WOW! I was very proud to have had a small roll in the U.S. Federal Court case for the Titanic artifacts that have been recovered from the ship on the sea bed, but never knew anything about this violin. The image below, from this BBC article, is the violin that was being played while the RMS Titanic went down! Yes, really! However, for this blog the important part is how they figured it out and how long it took to do so, and in the end, why – the ultimate value, expected to be in the six figure range!

Therefore, this article allows me an excellent opportunity for coaching about authentication and appraising. I would like to convey to people in need  of, or interested in the appraisal and authentication process that you need to allow us to do our job for you completely and this article about the violin proves this very well, although in the most extreme of cases. Remember that with extraordinary claims comes the need for extraordinary proof! The best, and most efficient way for us to help you is when you have excellent provenance. However, most things  lack this one critical aspect, which leaves it to us and other experts to show why an item would deserve a high value. The violin’s owner got this, and it has paid off! The other point is, do not make an extraordinary claim, and then not allow us to find extraordinary proof to back it up, because the normal human reaction is that you do not believe it!

What I find all too often is that most people want to skip this necessary step and not allow us to do our research properly for the client, they just want a very high value, but that is not how it works. However, if you truly believe you have something of significant value, then you need to understand that we must determine values based on what we can establish through the research we are allowed to do by the client. The more restrictions the client puts on the work they want us to do, and thus the less research, then due to limiting conditions, generally the lower the value that will necessarily be produced, because we are not able to establish what is necessary to show the highest possible value.

When people say they know they have a Ming dynasty painting by a famous artist, for example, then I need to be able to show that this is accurate. Just because someone says it is this or that does not make it so if there is no provenance, only the research will show the truth. People frequently do not understand that when I say I must be allowed to do my work in order to properly value a piece, that this is exactly why, and it is not a ploy to purge money out of them, but is what must be done to allow the best possible use, thus allowing the best possible value for the item being appraised. It is indeed a lot of hard work, and there is a reason that real appraisals are not cheap, but the payoffs can be tremendous. It is fairly rare that an item requires seven years to be shown to be what it is claimed to be, but it is not unusual for it to take weeks to several months, and some times a year or so. This is a high stakes game, which you must play right to do well in. Some times you win, some times you lose, but as seen in this example, the win is SOOOO nice! Enjoy the article. So, the next time you want to get your wonderful piece appraised, understand that the pay off can only come if you do the work right. Enjoy the article, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-21806334

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