Fake Elmyrs

The buyer-beware principle of the marketplace is commonly overlooked in the feeding frenzy of auction house bidding. There is also an assumption of integrity invested in these purveyors of art, collectables, or anything on which a profit can be made. Read the terms and conditions of an auction house catalog. You'll see how they distance themselves from assuming any liability or guarantee of authenticity. Prospective buyers or sellers too often confuse "valuation" with "authentication." Simply because an item may be consigned to be sold and a guesstimate of value assigned that item the question of authenticity is an issue between the buyer and seller. It conveniently exonerates the auction house from culpability and, most importantly, does not interfere with the business of making money. Their obligations to protect consumers' interests are limited by design.



I have had some success in interdicting bogus Elmyrs in auction sales - and sometimes my protestations have been ignored, as in this recent sale of a print in the manner of Picasso purportedly by Elmyr. In this case the auction house elected to believe the seller's allegation that this print was "acquired directly from the artist by the present owner."


Although I discredited the authorship of this print and the owner's alleged link to Elmyr, the auction house allowed the sale to proceed. Establishing a sales history at public auctions is a pathway forgers and fakers use frequently to perpetrate art fraud. Auction houses have a lamentable record of complicity in enabling art crime. Their inability, or unwillingness to better police their own business practices that allow "plausible deniabilty" are loopholes fraudsters use with alacrity. This may well be why Elmyr and others of his ilk are remorseless about their crimes. They simply are playing by the rules of marketplace, one that resists accountability and thereby remedying a problem, which, in part, is their own creation. So, the burden of guilt can be shared. This reality also accounts for the lack of outrage I feel about Elmyr's guilt and why I view him more of a player in a duplicitous world of art where hucksterism - and irony, are ever present.


Fake ElmyrThis wretched work attributed to Elmyr has appeared numerous times for sale on eBay over my consistent objections about its misattribution and my complaints to the seller. It demonstrates the ineffectual measures and lack of due diligence online - or traditional auction houses take to protect consumers from fraud. While the irony of defending an art forger's authenticity is never lost on me, it shows how Elmyr and others of his ilk, profit from a poorly regulated marketplace - to their advantage. As long the free-marketeers' mantra of 'let the market decide' holds sway, self-interest and profit-taking will always prevail over consumer protection. In light of this reality, I still view these fraudsters as players in a system tilted in favor of profiteers. Quel surprise.