3 Common Mistakes Most People Make When Buying Art Online


1) Fake Art

Buying fake artwork is obviously a huge problem in the art world and may be more common than you think. With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, the problem of fake artwork in the marketplace has grown exponentially. 

Often times, the largest and most trusted online platforms list fake art works for sale. Now, this is not necessarily the fault of the platform itself, as they are not selling the artwork themselves, but are merely providing a platform for others to sell on. 

Now, I won’t get get into which platforms specifically have more or less fake artwork on their website but I will say that 90% of them do, to various degrees. Some of these platforms have a relatively small number of  fake art listed, let’s say under 10%. BUT with some of these platforms, those statistics are reversed as they sell approximately 90% fakes and only 10% authentic pieces. And I’m talking about big, well known platforms here..

Many times it is not even difficult to see which pieces are fake, and sometimes you will see the same ‘original’ piece listed multiple times across multiple platforms, a clear giveaway.  Some of the time however, it is very difficult to know if a piece is fake, and it may even fool the experts. 

In conclusion, fake art has flooded the internet and is likely to be a multi billion dollar a year industry. Many of the online marketplaces do not give any guarantees to the consumer, and act only as a middle man between the buyer and seller. This is why it is important to know something about the seller, not just the platform itself, ie Ebay is a trusted platform, BUT anyone can sell items on it, and although many sellers are honest, many are not. 

2) Damaged Art

The second most common problem with buying artwork online is damage. There is a slew of possible damages to artwork including, but not limited to: mat burn, foxing, light damage, and water damage.

Many times, the seller will not tell you wether an artwork is damaged, either because they do not know themselves or because they are trying to fool you. 

One of the most common damages that occurs to framed works on paper is mat burn. Mat burn is caused by acid in the mat (or other framing materials) that seep into the paper. As long as the artwork is framed however, you cannot see the mat burn, but upon removing the frame and mat, you will see a distinguishable color difference in the paper.

Now, many sellers online will not care to remove the frame of a work on paper to determine if there is mat burn, and many do not even know this is an important thing to do. But regardless of the sellers intention, mat burn is a very common problem and often goes overlooked. 

Another common damage to artwork occurs around the edges in the form of rips, tares, and folds. Damaged edges are often overlooked because, like mat burn, can go un-noticed when a piece is framed. Other times however, the damage is noticed, and the seller purposefully crops the image so that the edges of the piece cannot be seen in the photographs. 

So, if a piece is framed, make sure to request an image of the piece unframed to determine if there is mat burn, AND if a piece is cropped, make sure to ask for an image of the full piece so that you can determine if there are any damages around the edges.  

3) Shipping

The 3rd biggest problem art buyers face when purchasing artwork online is shipping. The two problems with shipping is the price (which many buyers do not factor in when buying the artwork initially) and the possibility of damage while the piece is being transported from one location to another.

Shipping artwork can be expensive, and often ads a significant sum of money on top of the price paid for the artwork itself, especially if you hire professional art shippers. The reason it is important however to hire the right shippers is so that the artwork does not get damaged, which brings us to the next paragraph. 

After purchasing a work of art online, the seller will often recommend a list of third party shippers. Now, some of these shippers are quality but many are not, and do not really know how to ship artwork. If you hire your local Fedex to ship your artwork, chances are the work will not be securely packaged to with stand the trauma of shipment. Many shippers throw around boxes in the back of their truck with no regard to what’s inside. A quality art shipping company with handle the packages with care and will package the artwork securely with copious amounts of protection.

In inclusion, make sure to find out the price of shipping before you buy a piece of artwork online, and make sure the shipping company is reliable when it comes to shipping fine art specifically.