The Art of the Scam (and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim)

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Very cliché I know and I apologize but there is no better way to describe it. If someone out of the blue contacts you to buy your art as a surprise for their wife or thinks your art is a good fit for some exclusive international art exhibition then your alarm bells should be going off. It is the email we dream of (being discovered-yay!), but also feel great disappointment when we get it (looking like newbie easy targets-nay!).

Meet “Dave”

I find this question a lot on art forums and groups. Some innocent artist is hoping against hope asking for opinions about “Dave” from Florida who wants to surprise his wife with their beautiful painting. The thing is Dave needs the artist’s mailing address to send a cheque because he can’t use his credit card to buy the work in case his wife finds out. Really Dave? Does your wife have nothing better to do with her time than check your credit card activity? Dave’s wife doesn’t need a painting, she needs a damn life.

Please don’t fall for this one, never ever give out your mailing address or personal information of any kind! The first time I got this email I had a lot of back-and-forth emails with Dave because I honestly was bored and wanted to see how creative Dave’s answers could be. He must have thought I was born yesterday because he told me that he had already sent my cheque (I gave him a local arts organization’s mailing address after taking permission from them) and accidentally written in a huge amount of money on it. He said that could I deposit that and return him some of it, insisting I could keep a big amount for my trouble. Dave was a really nice guy just wanting to give me his money for my trouble. Why can’t everybody be like Dave and just hand out money for our trouble? Needless to say, I told Dave that I would be keeping all his money and the painting as well. Poor Dave. Oddly enough his cheque of ridiculously large amounts of money never reached me and I am still poor.

If you are a new artist and want to take a chance with selling your work out of your area to unknown clients, please sign up with places like Etsy, Saatchi or Fine Art America. It is worth the time and cost. If you are doing it on your own, have a PayPal, Square account or proper online store and a rule that you don’t ship anything out until you deposit the amount safely. If Dave is in a rush and can’t wait for funds to be cleared because he forgot his anniversary is coming up that is Dave’s problem, not yours!

The Hoity Toity Art Gallery in New York

Another alarm-raising email comes from some posh gallery in New York that wants to represent you after noticing your potential talent or having some unknown collector recommend you-I bet it was Dave. This one sounds much more convincing than Dave’s email. This one can really get your hopes up. I mean New York! You do a Google search and yes indeed this is a real gallery! It is the same email address given on their website! They are legit! You have made it! You are going to be the next big artist!

No you are not. Do you want to sell your soul to the devil? If you answered yes, then stop reading. If you answered no then keep reading!

This is a Vanity gallery. They basically cater to your vanity, so don’t let it get the better of you! They want to represent you, but they want you to pay them a ridiculous amount to do that. Even before they sell any of your work. And if they sell your work, they want a huge commission from that too. Giving away your work for free would be cheaper and less painful. They will show your work in New York yes, but does that guarantee it will sell? No. So you will basically pay them money you don’t have to show your work maybe once, the fee they charge will be more than you can sell your work for and if it does sell, they are keeping most of that too. But hey you went to New York! Please don’t. Do your local shows, approach your local galleries, build your network and get to know the people you do business with. If something doesn’t feel right trust your instinct, don’t be afraid to ask questions and never be afraid to say no!

Also, that Nigerian Prince is not real and he has no money.