It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you make a purchase on ebay (EBAY), there’s a decent chance you won’t ultimately receive exactly what you thought you were buying. This is especially true when it comes to art: recently, a Los Angeles gallery owner named Ron Rivlin discovered that paintings he had purchased that were attributed to Andy Warhol did not bear the artist’s signature Warhol Foundation authentication stamps. As it turns out, the paintings were fake versions of Warhol’s Shadows series from 1978, and they’d been sold by a Boston man who recently pled guilty to the crime.
Brian Walshe, the man in question, reportedly sold the paintings for $80,000 to Rivlin after claiming that the original purchase price of the artworks was $240,000 in total. “According to bank records, the cashier’s check was deposited that day into an account that Walshe controlled, and $33,400 was subsequently withdrawn in the following 14 days,” Nathaniel Mendell, acting United States Attorney, said in a statement.
Additionally, it was truly fairly easy for the buyer to figure out that something extremely fishy was going on. “When he compared the paintings to the photographs from the eBay listing, they did not look identical,” prosecutors continued in a statement. “The buyer concluded that the paintings he purchased from Walshe were not authentic.” Prosecutors are also saying that Walshe acquired the fake paintings from someone he knew from college living in South Korea. This classmate reportedly agreed to take the falsified canvases to the United States for sale, which is how Walshe wound up with them.
The thing about fabricated art being sold is that it’s generally extremely difficult to pass off false work as real, so unless you have a very sophisticated forgery on your hands, it’s best not to attempt anything at all. And of course, it’s wrong to rip off an artist’s work, period. Unfortunately, many people still have yet to figure this out.