Online Scam Targets Art Basel Galleries

Art Basel in Miami Beach.
Photo: Art Basel.

A shady conman has been attempting to scam galleries through the Art Basel website. In an attempt to warn its exhibitors, Art Basel organizers sent an email to art advisor Josh Baer, who then publicized the scheme in this week’s edition of the Baer Faxt.

It appears that the perpetrator of the scam is a man going by “Steve Black” who approaches galleries using the Art Basel online catalogue as an intermediary. Claiming a London address, Black operates by arranging to buy a piece and then, after receiving an invoice, sending the gallery fake checks made out for more than the sticker price. Black then demands that the gallery use a wire transfer to repay the excess funds—rookie conman stuff, really.

Based on his correspondence with the galleries, it seems that the duplicitous Black is relatively ignorant about the artists whose works he was attempting to purchase and the galleries he was targeting. To date, Black has victimized six galleries, although it remains unclear both if any of the dealers actually sent him the money, and what kind of sums were involved. The names of the galleries have also not be released.

An Art Basel spokesperson told TAN that the fair’s organizers have contacted galleries directly in addition to issuing a warning via the Baer Faxt, having also made their own contact directly, and are doing their best “to alert them to these criminal activities.”

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