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South Coast Art Expert Says Forgery, Theft, And Even Terrorism Major Issues In Art World

(Photo Courtesy Anna Kolosyuk/Unsplash)

Experts say shocking number of fakes on market, and even in museums and galleries

Forgery, money laundering, and fraud. They sound like crimes from the world of high finance, but they have become huge issues in the arts world.

An art expert based in the Conejo Valley says the crimes are more widespread than people think. Christine Maasdam is an art expert who studied in Washington D.C., and London, and did her graduate studies in antiquities trafficking and art from at the University of Glasgow.

Maasdam says good forgeries are hard to create, but also, hard to detect. She says even some museums have been fooled, and have counterfeit works in their collections.

She says even when you bring some of the world’s leading experts together, they can differ over a painting or other work's authenticity.

And, Maasdam says artworks are sometimes used for ulterior motives, like to launder and move large amounts of money. It's much easier to get an artwork across a border than cash.

The Westlake Village based art expert says she’s especially concerned about what some terrorists are doing in the Middle East. She says they are taking, and selling works to finance their terrorism efforts. Some of the works are previously unknown finds at historic sites which are being dug out of the ground, removed, and sold in a black market to collectors.

So, how do we know if that painting that’s been in the family for decades is something special? She says you have to play detective. Where did the painting, or other work come from? Are there any markings on it which might show it was in an exhibition, which might lead to more information from a museum or gallery?

And, she says your detective work should include investigating any so-called art appraisers.

Maasdam spoke about arts at risk in Cal Lutheran’s “Fifty and Better” virtual course series this week. The talk about art theft, art forgery, and art terrorism is available online.

Link to Christine Maasdam lecture on Arts At Risk:
Link to Cal Lutheran "Fifty And Better" Lecture Series:

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.