James Smith on an Art Collector's Guide to Spotting a Phony

James Smith has previously provided tips on how to determine that a collectible piece of art is authentic. Most of his advice was centered on verifying the authority that attributes the artwork. Here, James Smith adds advice on how to spot a phony.

James Smith explains that there are a few obvious telltale signs that a piece of art is wrongfully attributed. James Smith suggests a conscientious art collector should familiarize themselves with the common red flags that indicate a work of art may not be by the artist in question.

First, says James Smith, vague visual resemblances do not an original make. Some sellers of art attribute pieces to certain artists simply because the piece at hand looks a lot like something they’ve seen in a book or gallery before. James Smith cautions art collectors about taking such conversational credentials at face value. With that much money at stake, James Smith likes to dig a little deeper.

Another common technique of false attribution is word-of-mouth testimonial. Often a disreputable seller will say things like “the previous owner told me” or “I have it on good authority” or some other such general phrase. Some sellers, explains James Smith, will describe the previous owner of the artwork as a prestigious, rich and famous patron of the arts. James Smith warns fellow collectors that a good story about the previous owner in no way verifies the authenticity of the piece at hand.

Keep an eye out for art appraisers. James Smith explains that art appraisers merely make educated assessments of the monetary value of an artwork, not its authenticity. Art appraisers are not automatically qualified to authenticate and attribute art. Allowing an art appraiser to attribute a piece of art, says James Smith, is like expecting a real estate agent to perform a home inspection. The two responsibilities are not the same.

In conclusion, James Smith agrees that art collecting is a very rewarding endeavor, but it requires a bit of homework. Shop for art with a critical eye, look for common signs of phonies, and verify the credentials of attributors. With a little time and attention, says James Smith, you’ll be collecting art with the best of them!

Konrad Kafarski

Konrad Kafarski

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04.01.10

Merlin Lee Bergeron offers insight on how to tell true works of art from fakes trying to be passed off as original. Merlin Lee Bergeron has previously provided tips on how to determine that a collectible piece of art is authentic. Most of his advice was centered on verifying the authority that attributes the artwork. Here, Merlin Lee Bergeron adds advice on how to spot a phony.

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