Tuesday, August 25, 2015


My friend and fellow Searle enthusiast Uli Meyer has spotted a poor Searle copy coming up for auction at Bonhams The established auction houses never believe us when we point out forgeries. 'Who are you to comment' one well known small gallery near the British Museum once snootily told me when I pointed out they were selling a Searle copy. Our opinions just weren't accepted as we weren't qualified to comment in their estimation. I can see they might take the challenge as an affront to their informed expertise. I used to forward links to Ronald and he would chase them up himself but now he's gone there's no one to protect the casual buyer. Uli writes:

'The image on the right is a terrible tracing of a drawing by Ronald Searle, on the left. Incredibly this embarrassing, awful fake is currently up for auction at the famous auction house Bonhams. I made them aware that the drawing is a fake and a terrible one at that and sent them the image of the original. The 'expert' I spoke to still isn't sure and incredibly, it is still up for sale. How can a reputable auction house employ so called experts that can't tell that this atrocity is not a drawing by one of the most influential graphic artists of the 20th century. It boggles my mind.'

There appears to be an amateur forger in the UK who intermittently slips poor copies onto the market- always at a different auctioneers. I've tackled this issue before where the eBay seller was challenged in the comments section and justifies the sale with the disclaimer 'after Ronald Searle'. Read it here

**UPDATE** the piece has been removed from the sale


Mike said...

The Searle line is totally lost in the second image. You don't even need to have seen the original to see how bad this is.

Robert Fiore said...

I like the story Orson Welles tells in F for Fake about the unknown artist who gets an art dealer to come to his studio and look at his work. Looking through a pile of drawings the dealer stops short and says, "How on Earth do you come to have this Toulouse Lautrec drawing?" "Oh no," says the artist, "That's not an original, that's a copy I made as an exercise." After he's finished looking at everything the dealer says, "I'll take the Lautrec . . . and I'd be happy to buy any others you might happen to find."

David Apatoff said...

Matt, this is happening more often as cartoons become more valuable, and competitive new auction houses create a race to the bottom for new material to sell.

In the last few months, a seller on ebay named "fosworld" sold a few fake Calvin & Hobbes originals. They were confirmed as fakes by the Museum that owns the true originals, but fosworld shamelessly refused to disclose the problem or take them down. Ebay would not intervene, as long as it was possible to make a few bucks from the fraud. Competing with unscrupulous auction houses such as ebay, other auction houses (Bonham's, Heritage, etc.) have an incentive to look the other way.

I saw that fake Searle at Bonham's and laughed, it was so bad. But the lesson for art collectors is, I think: unless you really understand the provenance of what you're buying, you'd better purchase because you like the appearance of the drawing, regardless of who drew it. Don't buy for the reputation or the pedigree or market value, because sooner or later you'll be fleeced.