The Epidemic of Art Forgery in Online Auction

online auction

Prior to the internet most people would buy their artwork from brick-and-mortar galleries. Although these galleries were of different qualities and reputations, there was still a certain level of quality and legitimacy expected, and the majority of galleries maintained a certain standard of ethical business practices.

Rise of Online Auctions

However since the rise of the internet, this standard has drastically changed. The quality of the art market has suffered significantly in recent years because the internet has allowed many different people to start buying and selling artwork, and many of these sellers have no business selling art.

And because these online sellers do not have to have a physical space or location, they have been allowed to stay anonymous and therefor remain unaccountable for their often shady business practices. Many of these sellers frequently lie about the quality of the artwork that they are selling, or knowingly sell fake pieces.


In fact, the proliferation of fakes being sold on the Internet is now absolutely epidemic. I can see with certain online auction houses that 90% — 95% of the art they are selling is fake. This is not an exaggeration. I’ve seen certain auctions and all they do is sell fakes, they do not sell anything else but fakes.

Now this poses a serious dilemma for the good, reputable auction houses because they now have to compete with all these very bad auctions that are selling works by the same artists for a lot less money.

Many buyers do not know the difference between what is real and what is not, and they see that one painting that is selling at Sothebys or Christies for $100,000 and a similar painting that is selling at a fraudulent auction house for a third of the price, but it’s a knock off… Now, obviously a first time art buyer or even a somewhat experienced art buyer will go with the cheaper price, thinking they are getting a deal when really they are being burned.


Although the internet has allowed more people to buy and sell art, and has brought more exposure to the arts in general, it has also acted as a shield for fraudulent art sales. Shady sellers have an easier time lying about the quality of the art they are selling and have an easier time selling out right fakes with no repercussion.

This has become a serious problem in today’s art market, and is something that needs to be addressed on a large scale moving forward, to prevent this type of widespread fraud and abuse.