The “Israeli Art Scam”

February 5, 2010

Please be aware that this article is not to be interpreted as antisemitic! It is just by accident that this is about fake “Israeli students”!

While I am doing research on the Internet it came into my mind that it might be a good idea to create a new series about art scams. Especially artist beginners tend to step into those traps which can result in costly mistakes. Not everybody is “blessed” with a certain basic suspiciousness but rather “punished” with a naive trust in people and would never think of organized betrayal.

I do not want to get into details about human weaknesses such as ego and vanities these people prey upon nor do I want to accuse good people’s good will to help others which is shamelessly exploited, being also the reason why these criminals will always find victims. It’s a shame! I am going to post just randomly what I find. You can decide what to do with it. Maybe the one or other story is new to you.

I stumbled across an incredible story in an article from the Calgary Sun published in 2009 that might not be new to you but if you haven’t heard about it yet it might be worth for you to read.

If it weren’t so disgusting to exploit again the kindness of people I would say this is really inventive. I am amazed again and again about the criminal energy some people seem to inherit without end:

“Gillian Butler suspected she was being scammed by a con artist, who claimed to be an art student from Israel.

Still, the Cochrane woman fell prey and spent $360 for a pair of reproduced canvas paintings, because she wanted to help impoverished students supposedly on an exchange program to Calgary from Israel. ” Continue to read here


A similar story was published in 2006 by the Star News Group with a slightly different touch:

“BERWICK and Pakenham residents may have unwittingly become embroiled in an international moneymaking art scam.
Over the past month young people passing themselves off as Israeli art students have been knocking on doors in the area offering original oil paintings at discount prices.

Berwick resident Melinda Cranston said the friendly appearance of an ‘Israeli art student’ who knocked on her door initially allayed any fears she had about inviting her in.
“A nice young girl knocked on the door with a folio of oil paintings. She looked harmless and said the paintings were for sale to help students at a university in Jerusalem,” said Ms Cranston.
“She said there was an exhibition opening in Sydney where the paintings would sell for $1500 to $3000, but she was happy for us to pay between $150 and $250.” Continue to read here



10 Responses to “The “Israeli Art Scam””

  1. Christine Says:

    April 9th, 2010

    I live in a Montreal west island suburb and the same story happened to me 2 days ago.

    A young guy knocked on our door around 6 p.m. with a big portfolio and a nice smile. Israeli Art Student, he said, in Montreal for a week selling his fellow students art.
    Speaking english with a big accent. I asked what was his name 3 times and couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I let it go. I didn’t want to seem rude.

    To make a long story short, we bought one painting. Paid 150$ cash. We liked the painting and thought we were helping out at the same time. It seemed a fairly good price for the size of the oil painting.

    I asked about who was the painter. He gave me a name and said he would email me her info. I gave him my email adress.

    He tried to push this guy he knew to have the painting frame at a good price. We declined. (Little did we know at that time that it was us being framed!)

    The next day I thought I’d look on the net and try to find info myself on the artist in question. Couldn’t find anything, except stories, after stories of israeli art student scam artists…. No need to say we felt like fools!

    I called the police to report the situation. More to inform them then anything else that some scam artist could be roaming the neighbourhood. I don’t have proof that it’s a scam, but I don’t have proof that it’s legit eighter…

    Like the police told me, the guy didn’t do anything illegal, so there is little they can do…

    We were thinking of hanging the painting in the dining room… but now it will probably go in the basement! I don’t want to be reminded every day how naive I was!

  2. vyala Says:

    Oh Christine, I am terribly sorry about your bad experience. This is really a shame. The world is full of these guys who exploit the good will of other people who have only good in mind. What makes me really angry is that it does a very bad service to artists in general and the acceptance of their hard work. It is not easy anyway to be perceived as professional and worker equally to someone from any other profession.
    I can only say if you like the painting try to forget about the whereabouts and how it came into your home.

  3. Skotas Says:

    Hahahahaa… i am laughing at myself… just spent 450 euros on two large paintings. Have an apointment on monday with framer , but as Christine said – i am feeling framed now…:-/ Jesus why am so naive…

    But paintings i like, definetly hang them in my bedroom and try to forget about scam… if it possible.

  4. vyala Says:

    No I did not but thanks for the links!

  5. vyala Says:

    Good! If you like it – you should not have any regrets despite everything. Next time you might be a bit more careful.

  6. vyala Says:

    Please be aware that this incident has nothing to do with antisemitic attitude! Any comment that is related to such expressions and opinions will be trashed!

  7. When i traveled in Paris France , i was offered a nice painting by a young fellow who told me he was helping his friend from [A non French /non European country, we will call X] who was studying art in Paris, I identified the picture as a cheap copy , told the young fellow it is a fraud , and did not buy it.
    I have approached by other people, who told the same story ….. This does not make me write a Title wAn X country`s scam’. This were no honest people , nothing to do with their origin .
    If you had no intention to point to a certain group….
    you should have called it :A so called Art Scam `

  8. Art Lover Says:

    I myself sold art, door to door.
    I have to say that it is a controversial subject indeed.
    At first I was quite repelled by the stories I’ve heard about people lying and saying they painted the art and so forth. I decided to give it an honest try.
    I’ve sold these beautiful paintings for 2 months. I haven’t used a single lie in any sale, and I was the top seller in my team.
    These paintings are amazing. They were indeed painted by hand as far as my untrained eye can tell, since I see 2 of the same painting and they are quite different from one another.
    Almost every product we buy today is made in China and these aren’t so very different. Do you know for how much the factory in China sells your Nike shoes? No more than a few Dollars probably.
    Furthermore, every product in the world today has mark-up. That means that the prices go up from the factory till they reach the client and that’s exactly how it should work. The product we provide is of top quality, brought to the customers door so he can try it in his house, framed for him within the week in the convenience of his house, and handed to him on a silver plate. Just show me another company that provides people with that service, and still keeps the costs lower than any painting you can find in galleries today at that level and quality.
    We, the students and young people who sell it, work very hard day after day to provide this service and we earn an honest living. We are also taught and trained to be polite and nice since we are invading the people’s private space and sanctuary and we treat them with the utmost respect. Someone who is rude, too pushy or aggressive in his sales will quickly be off the team.
    In any profession you will have dishonesty, lies and deceivers. Especially sales is a tricky business. Even the simplest salesman in any clothing store will show you the “nice side of the truth” so to speak. Does that make it the “great clothing stores scam”?
    The bottom line is that we provide an amazing product, at low cost, to your doorstep, work very hard for the customers to find something that they love, and change the misconception today that art should be only in museums and galleries. Please forgive the ones that don’t believe in the product enough that they feel they must lie and deceive. I try to stop that phenomena as best as I can and explain to them that the truth is the most efficient sales “tactic”.
    Hopefully we can get rid of that phenomena soon and continue providing people around the world these beautiful paintings.

  9. Sandra MacLean Says:

    I was wondering if anybody knew where to get these paintings. i hear you can also get them from china? i had bought one from one of the students i don’t remember what country about 6 years or so ago. i had a house fire shortly after i bought it. i loved it and can’t find it again. i was so upset when i lost it. then i decided to google it one day and was almost relieved when i read it was a scam because then i had a better chance of getting another copy than i would had it have been an original. ya i’m sure i overpayed but i don’t care.

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