Foolish

Art has become third to only weapons and drugs as the preferred choice to steal, fake, embezzle, and just flat out launder money. Help us stop the foolishness.

Hijacked for greed

More and more art is part of our lives in ways that we really don´t even realize allows those that have to have more and those that don´t to stand aside and marvel. It is said that the best place to hide a crime is right in the public eye and that seems to more and more what public and private art has become.

Art has always been a bastion of the rich and powerful to employ hundreds, if not thousands of workers to portray their dominance, power, wealth, and ownership. There are very few civilizations that have not used art as much as a device to demonstrate power or obtain power over the centuries.

Let’s say you have USD10 million of dirty cash you need cleaning. Buy a piece of art worth that amount anonymously, then take that to Sotheby’s and put it up as collateral for a loan of USD9.8 million. Take the cash and there you have it. Clean money. Art is also attractive to criminals because of its ease in transportation. Gold or cash in equal value to that of a work of art would be far heavier to transport. Furthermore, the value art is not bound by markets or index since it holds no universal currency. This makes it far less risky compared to precious metals or currency whilst its price can be manipulated easily by private sales or at auctions.

The art market’s reputation has long suffered criticism for its relationship to money laundering. As the New York Times explained, “Secrecy has long been central to the art world. Anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. But some experts are now saying this sort of discretion is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.”

For example we see time and time again how world leaders, corrupt and unjust ones that are eventually toppled by their populations, have almost endless amounts of paintings, sculptures, and decorations that have been paid for with taxes and theft. Why does this occure again and again? What makes art the perfect place for greed? And not only greed to have money or power, but to display that greed and power in the faces of everyone. What is about the human condition to not only be unjust, but to flash it without remorse?

Here’s just one example…

Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio had to hand over to authorities a USD 3.2 million Pablo Picasso painting and a USD 9 million Jean-Michel Basquiat collage after ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and its production company, owned by the former prime minister’s step-son, came under investigation. His paintings were gifted to him but the US Department of Justice’s anti-money-laundering division began claiming forfeiture of $540 million in assets that it says were bought with money stolen from the 1MDB fund and entities that it controlled. Upwards of $100 million worth of art were specified including in the Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana (USD36 million,) and Tete de femme by Pablo Picasso (USD40 million.) This was on top of the Monet and Van Gogh paintings the Swiss authorities had already seized in 2016.

Roundabout Art in Spain: Another 300,000 euros was added for a work of art on the roundabout before the entrance to the departure hall: a bronze statue dedicated to the initiator of the airport, the provincial PP party leader Carlos Fabra. The statue is 25 meters high, weighs 20 tons and stands at the roundabout at the entrance to the airport.
Thousands fooled by Lana Newstrom nothing art. Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com
Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio had to hand over to authorities a USD 3.2 million Pablo Picasso painting and a USD 9 million Jean-Michel Basquiat collage after ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and its production company, owned by the former prime minister’s step-son, came under investigation

See who has been fooled lately…

Christie’s to Sell $6 M. T. Rex Skeleton in October 20th Century Art Sale

Christie’s will offer a massive Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton this fall. Known as “Stan,” the specimen is 67 million years old. In an unexpected move, the fossil is set to hit the block during Christie’s evening sale of 20th Century art on October 6 and will be on public display at the house’s Rockefeller center locationContinue reading “Christie’s to Sell $6 M. T. Rex Skeleton in October 20th Century Art Sale”

Debt and Other Fabulations

During quarantine and amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, Silvia Federici—a Marxist feminist activist and academic—video chatted with Danish artist Hannah Toticki Anbert. The two discussed their respective work concerning debt as it relates to various fairy tales. Federici, who was born in Italy and is based in New York, is a key figure inContinue reading “Debt and Other Fabulations”

Art World Scammer Who Tricked Clients Out of $20 Million? Inigo Philbrick

Inigo Philbrick, the mysterious, stylish and formerly admired art dealer who ran galleries in London and Miami, was arrested by U.S. agents last Thursday after being found on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. Philbrick—a dashing dealer on the contemporary art scene until he wasn’t—made headlines towards the end of 2019 for his conspicuous disappearance in the wakeContinue reading “Art World Scammer Who Tricked Clients Out of $20 Million? Inigo Philbrick”

7 Iconic Art Scams you Should Know

Art and scams seem to become more and more synonymous as time goes by and good people come forward to tell about the smoke and mirrors. Here are 7 great scams that for their artistic talent is outstanding. For their ingenuity even more so. But like all great charades the curtain has to fall eventually…

Multi-millionaire Andy Hall fooled by mother and son

Hall was tricked by a mother-and-son team of master manipulators, but justice was served last week – in Concord, of all places – when a jury ordered Nikolas Gascard and mom Lorettann Gascard to pay Hall about $500,000 for selling him forged paintings.


We receive many comments and testimonials from across the world…

James Fryer

Having been in the art business for many years, I can confirm this. There is great art out there, but you aren’t likely to see it at the posh galleries. Many cities have artists’ studio collectives where many artist have studios in one building, this is your best bet for seeing anything good.

Akl Samaan

” Art isn’t about beauty” just like “Breathing isn’t about staying alive”

Mark Van den dries

Art history has always been linear.. it reverts to “sameness” when critics disallow art that is contemporary in the true sense of the word.

Charco Lew

Jackson Pollock was funded by the CIA as the representative of “American” art (abstract expressionism) rather than Soviet-type realism (think of all the “noble worker” posters). So typical, in the McCarthy era, that a painter who painted by cycling drunk while dripping paint on a canvas was to be lionized and approved of officially, whereas genuine artists were ignored or bypassed.

MissRoxy

Hmm… Bansky suddenly makes a whole lot of sense, trying to be anonymous and un-marketable by painting on walls, yet still having people cut his work out and sell it for millions. That’s gotta be frustrating.

Emit Syse

Expressionism is sometimes great, but names and connections are all that matters in the art world these days. Some of the world’s best modern artists will never be known, because the “high art” world is exclusive to those in the right location and connections.

June Reid

Boomers influence has made pop art ridiculously over valued.

Rebeca Donadon

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing abstract and modern artists that when I look at their work, I really feel something I can’t describe in words. But when I look at this I feel NOTHING. Because that’s exactly what it is, a bunch of doodles on canvas that is treated as a masterpiece. So other people try to find meaning in a piece of garbage for fear of being called uncultured when there are so many talented artists that will never be recognized because apparently a bunch of scribbles is amazing to look at.

Molot Tames

It`s not an art market, it`s an asset market.

Suzanne Berry

“Art” is all about convincing people who can afford to pay a lot that something is worth paying it. It is the ultimate in successful advertising.

Candace Worth

The true value of art is seldom what someone is willing to pay for it.

Have you seen something foolish?

Notice something in the art world that just seems off or doesn't add up? Unfortunately the art world is full of foolish people and acts. Tell us about your experiences and help us spread the world on the fraud that the art world has become for the average person.

Share your story today.

Aside from money-laundering, the world of art has had a rich and nefarious past. From theft to even murder, let’s have a look at some of the more fascinating stories behind art’s criminal past.

How we are foolish...

Vandalism

Vandalism is not a major crime but a chargeable offense none the less. Graffiti and street art are now certainly coming under the appreciation of being true art with artists like Banksy, enhancing areas as opposed to mere defacing. Vandalism of art itself, on the other hand, has caused far more financial distress. From the two separate slashings of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to the spray painting of Picasso’s Guernica, vandals have always tried to make political or further artistic statements by being destructive.  The most notorious of vandals is Hans-Joachim Bohlmann. Known as the ‘serial art vandal,’ he spent 29 years defacing over 50 works of art in public exhibitions. He threw sulfuric acid over works by masters including Rembrandt and Rubens, completely destroying one piece by Paul Klee. The total damage he caused to works of art before he died was estimated at over USD 180 million.

The Mona Lisa went missing for two years

Theft

The art heist has been glamourised by countless Hollywood films but in reality, they were not that complicated to pull off before technological security advancements. In 1911, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, arguably the Louvre’s most treasured artwork, went missing for two years. Vincenzo Perugia, an employee at the museum simply hid inside before it closed, removed the painting and walked off unobtrusively with it hidden under his smock once the museum had reopened the following morning. When he was finally caught in Italy trying to sell the masterpiece, he only served 6 months in prison as he was hailed a national hero for bringing Da Vinci’s work back home.

The Scream by Edward Munch, 1893

Two versions of Edward Munch’s The Scream was stolen. Once in 1994 when four men broke into the National Art Museum in Oslo and stole its version of the iconic painting, leaving behind a note that read, ‘Thanks for the poor security.’ Then in August 2004, two masked robbers entered Oslo’s Munch Museum, holding tourists and employees at gunpoint as they tore another version of “The Scream” as well as Munch’s “The Madonna” off the wall.

Picasso’s Le Pigeon Aux Petits Pois has never been recovered.

Unlike these examples, there are plenty of works that have been stolen and never recovered. The saddest of these cases would be Picasso’s Le Pigeon Aux Petits Pois, which the thief threw in the bin, shortly after it was stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The bin was emptied before authorities learned of its contents and it has never been recovered. If the painting hasn’t been destroyed, it will be worth over USD26 million at auction today.

Forgery

Like any item of luxury, if there is demand then there will be fakes. In 1996, art historian Thomas Hoving estimated that forged art comprised up to 40% of the art market. With modern day technology it is becoming a lot harder to sell forged works of art and smart forgers also intentionally make flaws or hide messages so as to protect themselves from criminal repercussion if they are caught.  One forger who was exposed even capitalised on his infamy. Thomas Keating – who had claimed to have produced over 2,000 counterfeit paintings – served as a presenter on British television programs detailing the techniques of old masters. Some forgers make us question the world of art and those who claim to be experts in it. Wolfgang Beltracchi, duped the international art world for nearly 40 years by forging and selling paintings of early 20th-century masters, amassing a fortune in the millions.

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Murder

Art seems to attract all types of criminal behaviour and the ultimate act of murder is no exception. Caravaggio is the most famous artists who committed this crime. Aggressive, ill-tempered and constantly in trouble for fighting and given to carrying a sword, Caravaggio eventually killed a man in 1606 during a fight and had to flee Rome. Whilst on the run from the law he painted some of his darkest works, full of regret and sin. Benvenuto Cellini, on the other hand, killed without much remorse in the 16th Century. He stabbed his brother’s murderer to death, killed a rival goldsmith and shot an innkeeper dead. He was never punished for his crimes as he was so admired as an artist.

David with the Head of Goliath

In the 1980s, minimalist master Carl Andre was trialled for the second-degree murder of his wife, Ana Mendieta, who fell 34 floors to her death. Andre was eventually acquitted but the judgement remains questionable. It should be said that artists are not always the perpetrators but have also been the victim to attempts of murder. Andy Warhol was shot in his studio in 1968 by Valeria Solanas, who claimed Warhol had “too much control” over her life.

Some may argue that art will always have a dark side. It is what has been the motivation behind many famous canvases and only serves to enrich our experience of it.

“A work of art should be like a well-planned crime.”

Charles Baudelaire