Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fakes and Counterfeits

Guardian Unlimited (James Fenton)

The recent court case of a family of counterfeiters, who successfully passed off a fake statue as an Amarna period piece and sold it to a UK museum, has generated not only interest but a lot of thought on related matters. James Fenton has written a good insight into the psychology of fraud:

There is a neat moral point about falling victim to forgeries in general (not in the Bolton case). We are never more likely to be vulnerable to a cheat than when we ourselves are trying to diddle someone out of a masterpiece. You go into a shop and see a Rembrandt on the wall (so you think). You casually ask the price. The vendor mentions a figure that, though not small, is very cheap for a Rembrandt. At this point, the sensible thing might be to get an expert to examine your "Rembrandt" and give an opinion. But you are too greedy to do that. You want to own the thing first, and not alert anyone else (least of all the vendor) to your find. But this means that you are on your own; and if you are on your own, you are vulnerable.

You are also vulnerable if you are in a hurry. Fraudsters know this very well, and they often like to rush the customer, to take advantage of that moment of greed and bad judgment. And then there is the business of secrecy: the vendor gives the impression that the transaction must remain highly confidential, otherwise the deal is off. But secrecy means isolation.

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