As I’ve written before, gatekeepers, those whose reputations outweigh other standards of measurement, are the people who decide what is great art and what isn’t. Of course, those experts change with each succeeding generation and so, the value of art is ephemeral, something that poses a risk to collectors who buy art, not because they love it, but because it has value to others. “Why is a piece of canvas someone painted 300 years ago worth $30 million? Because I can have it and you can’t.” (“Wall of Shame,” by Ben Ryder Howe, Town&Country, October 2017, pg. 187.)
Besides fickle fashion, add forgery to the list of investment risks. As art commands higher prices, the number of fakes on the market increases. One art investigator speculates 75% of the paintings held in private and public collections are fraudulent. (Ibid, pg. 114.) We have only the “experts’” opinions to rely on.
Believe it or not, some collectors have thrown in the towel. Rather than shell out millions of dollars for a masterpiece, they hire masters to paint a Rembrandt or a Delacroix for them. Donald Trump, a man presumably allergic to all that’s fake, has a copy of Renoir’s La Loge in his penthouse at Trump Tower. Whether these purchases get identified as copies is up to the owner. If they keep their silence, then a $3,000 forgery allows a fat cat to bask in the same adulation as if the work were $30 million.
Because fake art can achieve the same gloat satisfaction as an original, those with fortunes large enough to buy fine art, sometimes don’t. If people assume the copy is the original, fake is a viable option. One forger, who’s gone legitimate, claims he’s making more money now than he did as a crook. (Ibid pg. 187.)