If you recently bought art from a charismatic art student selling his wares door-to-door, chances are you have been duped into buying a worthless piece that is mass produced in China.
A handsome young man with a French accent recently paid my parents a visit in Western Sydney, claiming to be an Israeli art student from the University of Jerusalem. He was carrying a portfolio which he said contained the work of he and his fellow students. Despite the work being unremarkable, my parents – always eager to support the arts – were willing to part with $120.00 for an oil painting depicting two boats docked against a wooden pier.
“These sell in galleries for $1,500” he said cheerfully. While this shyster was still in my parents’ living room, I was summoned to offer my opinion of the work.
The ‘art student’ presented me with some of the pieces in his portfolio – a tree, some generic abstracts, a scene of the Eiffel Tower. Each of the artworks had an associated back story – the tree was apparently a ‘burning bush’, representing the first time God communicated with Moses. The oil painting of the two boats symbolised the hope of peace between Israel and Palestine. They were just boats. I immediately recalled a story a colleague had shared only weeks earlier, who knew someone who fell for a similar scam. In his case, the ‘art student’ was a French man named Pierre, and the victim only discovered afterwards that the art was mass produced in Chinese sweatshops for $3 apiece.
“I don’t like any of them.” I said, before retreating. I quickly Googled ‘Israeli art scam’ and was presented with plenty of accounts of similar stories. Luckily I was able to tell my mother in time – so she wrote out a cheque instead of paying cash. As soon as this trickster left, she contacted the bank and cancelled the cheque.
These people are conducting fraudulent business – they sell cheap Chinese rip-offs to people who believe they are supporting art students. Anyone is at risk of falling prey to these swindlers, including the elderly and the vulnerable.
It’s time to close the door on these art scams!