Sunday, February 08, 2009
Can you name this painter?
One writer who makes his money from money has turned to dumpster diving. James Altucher—author, columnist and hedge fund manager—has been looking for smart investment tips in the wreckage of the Bernie Madoff portfolio. He thinks he's found some in Madoff's bin. (Warning!—he always thinks he's found some.) If you have a few million and no idea where to put them, read his column.
But what was more interesting was a revelatory experience he had recently with a friend in the art world. He reports—
I had breakfast the other day with a new friend who forges paintings for a living. Before I continue, I have to say that once this article appears she will probably not be friends with me anymore, even though I will not mention her name or any other revealing details.
In fact Altucher does reveal some interesting details—
... [M]y new friend works for a famous “painter.” I checked her boss out on the web and saw his paintings. They were stunningly beautiful. But here is the catch – he does not paint them at all.
Online, against each painting, it says “oil on canvas,” which is a farce. Here’s what he does: he takes a photograph of whatever he wants to paint, then he blows up the photograph to picture size. Then my friend uses oil paints to paint over the photograph, replicating it exactly, every colour, every line, so that it is a perfect replication of the photo underneath. If you scrape the oil off, you do not get a blank canvas – you get a photograph.
The artist has paintings in museums and galleries, according to the Wikipedia description. And not a single buyer has ever scraped off the oil.
So Altucher has given us this—
- The medium is oil.
- The surface is canvas.
- The artist's name appears in the catalogs of museums.
- The paintings are currently on sale in galleries.
- Photos of the paintings of the photos can be found on the net.
- The artist's name is (probably) a distinct entry in Wikipedia.
- The artist is male.
- The artist has a female assistant who enjoys dining with hedge fund managers and the like.
- The paintings are detailed and representational—the sort of thing you'd expect George Bush to buy if he ever bought a painting.
- There is a photograph beneath each painting for anyone daring enough to take a knife to it.
Right now, it feels as if every industry is either a scam or filled with scamsters and you do not know where to go or whom to trust.
So can any of my readers help restore a sense of trust for investors in the art world and help them avoid this fraud (devaluing some of their previous acquisitions, I should add)?
I'm completely useless here. If a painting isn't abstract I scarcely know what it represents.
A note on understanding elites (9/03/07)
Make the most from your catastrophes! (And WIN valuable prizes!) (4/01/08)
Quote of the Day: Million-dollar homes and other investments (11/18/08)