Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

Artists Wanted

By F. Lennox Campello

If you follow my blog then you know that one of the things that I love doing is exposing art scammers. If you are an artist, and you have a web site or your email is anywhere in the web, then you probably receive one of these a week.

The email usually goes something like this:


I would like to make an order for some works.

Do you ship internationally?

Let me know if payment is accepted by Master card or Visa card, or bank wire transfer, or international money order.


Often there are also grammatical errors in the email – that’s an usual tipper, but even when elegantly composed, and if you respond to the email, the scam nearly always marches along the following path:

  • They want to pay you by check, but they want you to wire them some money back from the “over payment.” Usually the scammer tells you that they’re overseas, but have someone in the USA who owns them money, and they’ll have that person mail you a check, and they want you to take the artwork’s price and the shipping price from that check, and then wire them the excess.
  • They offer to pay via credit card, which of course are stolen cards and may even clear your bank, or Square or PayPal for a day or two. They’ll volunteer to pay for all shipping to their country (usually overnight), and pre-pay the import duties on the card. A few days later, you’ll get a note from your bank telling you that it was a stolen card. If your artwork is already on the way and delivered, you may be hosed – if not, contact the shipper immediately.
  • They will mail you an international money order, and the fakes are so good that sometimes they even “clear” your bank for a few days until it is returned as a fake by the issuing agency – usually a foreign post office.
  • They send you a check, and it will look really real – often they are business checks from real companies, but they are all fake. The checks may even fool your bank for a while, and they may make the funds available to you, but when the check comes back to the bank as fake – even weeks later – the bank will take their funds back.

Bottom line: If getting the artwork from your studio to the “buyer” involves volunteered overpayment, covering all shipping no questions asked, expensive overnight/quick shipping, etc., be very suspicious. If you control the shipping process, then it adds some safety.

Specify your preferred shipper

Wait to ship until payment has been confirmed in your account – be careful though, just because it is available to withdraw, does not mean the same as confirmed. Best way to figure that out is to discuss it with your bank ahead of time, and pay extra attention to checks.

New subject: One of my pet peeves…

Those of you who are regular readers know that one of my constant concerns is the poor relationship between DC museum area curators and DC area artists, and the rarity of interest by most DC area museum professionals in their own city’s art scene and artists.

Like anything, there are notable, but rare, exceptions. In fact the only exception that I can think of is Jack Rasmussen at The Katzen Museum at American University.

And one of the unexpected benefits of the Trawick Prize and the Bethesda Painting Awards has been that they have “forced” the hired DC, VA and MD museum professionals and curators to look at the work of artists from the region; some amazing success stories have spawned from that exposure. Area artists should be very grateful to Ms. Trawick for all that she has done and continues to do for the fine arts around the capital region. Through those paid gigs, local museum curators are “forced” to look at the artwork of DC, MD and VA artists.

But getting back on subject and generally speaking, most of the DC area museum curators and directors still find it easier to catch a flight to another city to look at an emerging artist’s work from that city, than to take a cab to a DC area artist’s studio or visit a local gallery.

I think part of this is because, again with an exception here and there, most of these curators came from other parts of the nation and overseas, and they tend to bring their regional familiarities with them, rather than discover new ones (it takes a lot of work). They are also part of a curatorial scene where little risk is taken, and the herd mentality reigns supreme.

As a result, one can count in one hand the number of artists (local or otherwise) who have had their first ever museum show (or any museum show) in a DC area museum. And yet, even major museums (such as the Whitney in New York) have given local, unknown artists their first museum solos, although this is becoming rarer and rarer.

Example: I know that I wasn’t the only one amazed to find out that the now gone Corcoran’s Sam Gilliam retro over a decade ago was the first solo museum show by arguably DC’s best-known painter. And I am sure that the fact that Dr. Jonathan Binstock’s (at the time the Corcoran’s Chief Curator) PhD work was on Gilliam had a lot to do with the Corcoran’s decision to focus a solo on a DC area legend.

The rarity of local focus is also caused partially because of the fact that DC area museums generally tend to think of themselves as “national museums,” rather than as “city museums,” like all other major cities in the world have.

We have no Washington Museum of Art.

Furthermore, because of the sad lack of coverage by the DC local media of the DC local art scene and events, museum professionals have to spend more personal time (which they often lack) to “learn” about DMV artists and galleries, rather than learning from reading, as they do about what’s going on in NYC and LA and Miami and Seattle from the national magazines, or perhaps the coverage that those cities’ news media gives to their local arts.

And so it takes an “extra” effort on the part of a DC museum curator to get his or her interest aroused on any event in the local scene. Some of it is networking (a big name museum donor requests a visit to a gallery or a studio), some of it is financial (they are paid to jury a show), some of it is media-driven (such as the rare positive review in the even rarer news media coverage) and some of it is accidental (such as a curator admiring the work of a “new” artist in a LA gallery only to be told that the artist is a DC artist).

All of these have happened in my experience; they are empirical facts.

If you would like to check out the blog – Daily Campello Art News at

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