Oct 10, 2011

Scams Abound in the Chinese Art Auction World

Today, National Public Radio aired an insightful story about wide scale scamming by Chinese who sell and bid at auction for their country's art: In China's Red-Hot Market Fraud Abounds
Among the scams described are fakes selling for huge sums, auctions being used as conduits for bribes, and refusals to pay for high priced goods won at auction by bidders. I think it made some excellent points and closed with a great one: "One major issue is that Chinese auction houses are not responsible for the authenticity of the goods they sell, as long as they issue a disclaimer. But the problem is that the fakery is endemic. In all too many cases, the art is fake, the bids are rigged, the experts are crooked, and the bills are never settled. It's difficult to know what is real, aside from the corruption."

All this makes it hard to trust the validity of Chinese auction results, which I need to use as comps when doing appraisals. Therefore, I always check to see if objects similar to those I am appraising have sold at auctions in the West (which are also inundated by Chinese buyers, so that can be problematic too) and what prices are for these things in private galleries.