Artist Beware: Ways to Avoid Being Duped

As a result of the spate of scams, artists need to keep their antenna tuned.

Artist Sharon Broms of Portland, Ore., has started calling Better Business Bureaus to find out if they know anything about some of the organizations. "If the Better Business Bureau has no record of them, if they have no phone number, or if other museums have never heard of them, then I stay away from them," she says.

New York artist Cecile Brunswick has become cautious since sending artwork to the Wetherholt Gallery in Washington. The gallery went into bankruptcy in February of this year, and five of Ms. Brunswick's pieces were never returned.

Fortunately, Brunswick avoided sending art to the nonexistent New England Fine Arts Institute by calling a Boston museum. "They told me immediately not to send anything," she says.

Other places to check include local or state arts agencies, or United States consulates abroad.

Art Calendar magazine, in its April issue, warns readers how to avoid art-world scams by asking such basic questions as:

* Who are the jurors for so-called contests? Are they real art authorities?

* What are the hidden costs? Brian Dursum says most reputable museums don't charge the artist for shipping, insurance, handling, or showing their work.

* If there are shipping charges, are they round-trip or one way?

* Is there an immediate reply, accepting your slides? Taylor Spence says his antenna goes up if he immediately receives a reply that his work has been accepted and he should send money.

Brunswick says she doesn't enter anything with an admission fee. Mr. Dursum concludes: "It's not only buyer beware, but artist beware."

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