eBay may be a great tool for contemporary painters to sell their work online as the paintings usually only sell for hundreds or perhaps a few thousand at most. So investors can afford to take a risk on the work.
But when paintings start selling for very large sums, art collectors seem reluctant to gamble online. One high profile case of art fraud that didn’t help the cause was back in 2000 when a Californian lawyer by the name of Kenneth Walton sold a fake Richard Diebenkorn painting for $135,805.
Basically, he played dumb and pretended that he found the work at a garage sale and helped the eBay auction along by getting his business partner to keep bidding on the work. It was eventually found to be a forgery signed by Walton, which got him plenty of media coverage and the attention of the FBI.
Anyway, now he has written a book (Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay) about it and seems to be cashing in on the whole eBay art auction scam. It’s sad that a fraud can profit from his crime by writing a book about it, but such is life.
Here’s some quotes by Kenneth Walton from an interview with the Wired magazine..
- My description of the Diebenkorn painting was just a complete fable to make me look like a hapless everyman rube who found this painting in his garage, didn’t know it’s by Diebenkorn and puts it up and there’s these letters in the corner but he doesn’t know to mention and they just happen to appear in the corner of one of the photographs.
- I was forced to quit selling on eBay and eBay banned me for life and I had to give up my law license, so I really didn’t know what to do for my career.
- I don’t know if I could necessarily call it redemptive. It was very cathartic, and it was a way for me personally to come to terms with what had happened. Even if no one buys it, it was great for me to go through the process of writing.
He also seems to be doing quite well according to his website over at kennethwalton.com (I couldn’t bring myself to make the link live to his homepage as it felt like I was supporting an art fraud).