Art Picks From eBay, Number 12; Joan Miro eBay Art Auction Buying Tips

This is the twelvth in our instructional series of articles that focuses on how to dissect and analyze the ways that works of art are sometimes described for sale on the internet auction site, eBay. eBay does not actively police their auction offerings, but rather depends on emails from dealers, collectors, experts, buyers, and potential buyers to notify them of problems relating to particular works of art. Any seller can describe any work of art in any manner that he or she chooses, and as long as no one complains, that art sells to the highest bidder. As a result, eBay and similar online auction sites are among the more dangerous places for uninformed or inexperienced collectors to buy original art.

This installment's auction item is described below. credits the seller, by way of eBay, as the source of all of the following information and images. comments and questions appear in red italics throughout the eBay seller's description. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are as they appeared in the original for sale listing. at no time implies, makes, or intends to make any claims or express any opinions regarding the authenticity of any works of art that appear in this series.

Seller's headline:

Signed Joan Miro Cat and Bird comment: The title states that the item up for sale shows a cat and bird and is signed by artist, Joan Miro.

Seller's description: Signed Joan Miro of cat and bird. comment: The seller restates the title.


Seller's description continued: The dimensions are 13 3/4" x 10 5/8". The Painting is gouache and colored pencil on heavy grey rag paper. Paper is of proper age. comment: The seller states the medium and size of the art.

Seller's description continued: This painting is part of a group of pieces purchased from a man who lived in Detroit, a collector of art, who died at the age of 102. The paintings were bought in the 1940's and 50's, either at local auctions or on trips he took to Europe. The current owner has had the collections for about 10 years. comment: Two questions here: Who is the current owner? He or she is apparently not the seller. And who was the 102 year old art collector? If the current seller knows how old the collector was when he died, one would assume that he also knows the collector's name and perhaps some history of his collection. Either or both of these names would speak to the Miro's authenticity. The statement that a Detroit art collector who lived to be 102 bought this painting in Europe decades ago is too vague to have any bearing on either the art's quality, authenticity, or value.

Seller's description continued: The paintings have not been shown to any museums or art experts. No judgement has been passed on them. They have never been offered for sale. comment: Why would anyone who suspects that they may own an original Miro not show it to museums or art experts? Wouldn't he or she be even mildly curious as to whether it was authentic and, if so, how much it might be worth? Original Miro paintings can easily be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and more.

Seller's description continued: They are being offered at low reserves, WITH NO GUARANTEES OF AUTHENTICITY. comment: Why offer this painting on eBay with a low reserve rather than at a major international auction house? Any major auction house would be delighted to sell a Miro painting. Three more questions: How little did the painting have to sell for from the 102 year old collector's estate for it to be offered at such a low reserve? Since the 102 year old was an art collector, wouldn't he have provided either his executor or descendents with some idea of the art's provenance and/or value? And how little does the current owner either think that the painting is worth or care how much it sells for in order to offer it at such a low reserve?

Seller's description continued: However all are guaranteed to be original paintings or drawings and not prints or mechanical reproductions. comment: So the seller is offering an original painting, but is providing NO GUARANTEES OF AUTHENTICITY with respect to the artist who painted it.

Seller's description continued: I am not an expert on art or original paintings. Pieces are sold "as is". Reserves are low in relation to the potential values of the paintings.

Photo comment: Now wait one cotton-pickin' minute here!! If the seller is not an expert on art, why does this item's title and description state that the painting is signed "Joan Miro?" According to the above image, it's just signed "Miro." So the seller knows at least enough about art to state that the first name of the "Miro" who supposedly signed the painting is Joan? But how can he say the artist's first name is Joan if he's offering a painting that's just signed "Miro" with NO GUARANTEES OF AUTHENTICITY? And if the seller is not an expert on original paintings, how can he guarantee that he's offering an original painting? Furthermore, how does he know that this painting is a "gouache and colored pencil on heavy rag paper" and "of proper age?" As if that's not enough, how does he know the difference between heavy rag paper and medium or light rag paper?

Seller's description continued: No refunds will be accepted. comment: Read the above line carefully! It reads: NO REFUNDS WILL BE ACCEPTED. If, for whatever reason, you buy the art and you want to return it, YOU CANNOT RETURN IT. No matter whether it's real or fake or it arrives at your door in little tiny pieces or covered with mustard, YOU CANNOT RETURN IT. NEVER buy anything that is offered for sale on eBay or at any other online venue that comes with no return priveleges. Got that?

This is also a "private auction" which means that bidders identities are protected and, consequently, that making contact with those bidders is difficult. Private sales limit the free flow of information and communication between all concerned parties. recommends that private auctions be avoided.

Seller's description continued: Payments of check or money order accepted, please allow 7-10 business days for personal checks to clear, as well as paypal... If you have any questions or requests please feel free to mail me. comment: Sold for $3,716 with 35 bids. Stay tuned for our next "Art Pick from eBay."

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