Reading an article about a New York art broker, a painting, an artist, an actor and a few attorneys left me shaking my head. As a former art gallery owner, I was stunned at the blatant lies told by a few people to their client under the guise of wanting to please him. Alec Baldwin is the actor here. The article is "Paint and Switch?"
An excerpt follows:
“I thought she had made my dream come true,” Mr. Baldwin said. Instead, he said he believed that Ms. Boone, frustrated that the collector would not agree to sell, persuaded Mr. Bleckner to take an unfinished work from the same series, finish painting it and sell it to him without saying a word.
Mr. Bleckner’s office said he could not be reached for comment. Ms. Boone, through her lawyer, disputed Mr. Baldwin’s account, asserting he was never misled about the identity of the work.
“He’s wrong that the painting is a copy; it’s an original and very fine work of art by Ross Bleckner,” Ms. Boone’s lawyer, Ted Poretz, said in a statement.
(Note the careful/weasel wording here. Yes both paintings are ORIGINALS. The word COPY has different meanings in different contexts. He is using "COPY" as a form of reproduction of an ORIGINAL - print, giclée, serigraph, lithograph, etc. He's splitting hairs to cover his butt. The client used it to note that they are basically the same painting done around the same time - sort of like Georgia O'Keefe did many of the her lilies with slight variations, but they were both original, even though you most likely would want only one or the other and you would prefer one of the other for subtle reasons.)
This is the story of a client who was IN LOVE with a painting and wanted it at almost any cost. He was willing to pay the current owner a premium if he would sell it. This is a DREAM CLIENT! Turns out, the current owner of the painting didn't want the money enough to sell it. At this point, the dealer and/or artist decided it would be OK to pass off another original, finished years later as the same piece. If any of you collect art, enjoy art deeply, you know that this was stupid! First, they assumed the client wouldn't notice. THE MAN CARRIED A PHOTO OF THE PAINTING WITH HIM! Then, the dealer chose not to tell the truth, "I'm so sorry, we've tried all prices, the owner is as passionately attached to that painting as you are and won't sell..."
I will admit, I was surprised Mr. Baldwin didn't notice the difference immediately as the colors are different, composition, but that's not the point. As a former dealer I would have seen it as an opportunity to discuss with the client the possibility of a commissioned piece in that feeling of the series. Apparently there were a few unfinished works. Then, up front, the collector knows the truth and is given control to make a decision. The risk? He may not like it enough to want to pay the price for the newer version. Artists create from a moment in time - where they are personally, financially, physically, spiritually. BUT he would retain his loyalty to the dealer and the artist and appreciate the passion of the current owner of the painting in this story. To attempt to pass off a painting started at one point and finished years later and expect the client not to notice is arrogant, naive and stupid all at the same time. I don't care how much the client was willing to pay.
Why would you use deception to risk your reputation? Your client advocate? Your supplier's (artist's) reputation? I'm wondering if they think it was worth the risk. How do you weigh in on this? I know in the housing industry, clothing and other industries where one of a kind is the norm, this happens. Happens on car lots, too, but no one is trying to sell you a 65 Mustang, all original and then switching it with another 65 with a rebuild, albeit, new engine. It's not the same and you look like a disreputable, buffoon who doesn't deserve any client except the ones the rest of us don't want.
Wouldn't you think that the collectors previous pieces by the same artist are a bit tainted now? I'm sure he won't be purchasing through that broker and this story has reached around the globe. Greed strikes again. Don't be that sales person, that team leader, that supplier. It's very difficult to undo that type of damage.
How do you sales professionals weigh in on this one?