Advice to a would-be art scammer

I am in urgent need of cash and am hoping to sell the piece once finished.

841.jpgArtworld Salon received one of the lamest (i.e., funniest) new email art scams out there this week. Call it the Nigerian phonescam for the art world, complete with tell-tale awkward English:

Hello,

It was recommended to me by a friend of mine that I contacted you for your advise.

I own a painting by Francis Bacon that seems unfinished, there are big splashes of colours that I have been trying to clean off to reveal the figure underneath, but it just smeared as a result. I have already asked somebody to try to finish it but he did a disaster with it.

Not knowing what to do now I was wondering if you could help me find somebody who could finish it and do a good job, in the Bacon’s style.

Already the artist Peter Doug suggested to help, but I am not sure about his taste, he already did a quick sketch copy of how he could improve the Bacon, but to be honest I did not like much as he also seemed a bit messy and I think he would just rush the job for the money.

I am in urgent need of cash and am hoping to sell the piece once finished. If you would know a good artist or just someone interested, please do let me know.

If by any chance you would be in the power to help me I would be ready to share with you half of the value of the painting once sold.

Many thanks for your help, or if you would know somebody interested in the painting even in this state please do let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you,
Many thanks in advance,

Herbie Watsaint

Herbie’s ploy does segue nicely back into our conversations about the Bacon rubbish story and its disheartening conclusions, but this has got to be one of the most poorly imagined art scams I’ve ever read. Although anyone greedy enough to fall for this probably has a few important life lessons to learn, I’m a bit more concerned about the lack of education our budding art scammer is exhibiting. Therefore, I’m going to offer Mr. Watsaint a bit of advice.

First of all, Herbie, sweetie, you need to follow-up on the story that clearly prompted your idea. The incomplete Bacon the electrician plucked from the trash sold for  £400,000 (I’ll assume that much cash might save you from your urgent financial situation). If you actually have what you claim you have, you’re going through a lot of trouble for nothing. Take it to auction, as is, and then turn your attention to Jaguar shopping.

Because I assume you don’t have what you claim you have, though: Second, you should know that anyone skilled enough (and willing) to complete your “Bacon” to where it might fool some desperate collector is very likely already in league with the likes of criminal who wouldn’t think twice about tracking you down and paying you in kind for the eventual swindle that awaits them. In other words, you’re in over your head here, dude.

Third, work on your storyline a bit more laddie. You’re asking for expert assistance, but you’re revealing your scam every step of the way to your target audience. This in particular screams “I’m lying”:

‘he already did a quick sketch copy of how he could improve the Bacon, but to be honest I did not like much as he also seemed a bit messy and I think he would just rush the job for the money.”

Er…where to begin? Perhaps you need to Google “Francis Bacon” and “messy.” I suspect you’ll be surprised by what you learn.

Finally, Herbie, and don’t take this the wrong way, but you might just want to consider another line of work. While I appreciate the province of your appeal, you don’t quite seem cut out for the degree of detail pulling off a scam like this would require. Nice effort, though. And thanks for the chuckles.

NOTE: Image above not part of the scam, but an actual study by Francis Bacon: “Study from the Human Body. Etude de Corps Humain.”

Author: Edward Winkleman

New York art dealer (Winkleman Gallery : www.winkleman.com) and author of blog on art and politics (http://edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com)

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