An art exhibition which opened in Queenstown yesterday is being hounded around the world by a self-styled scam-buster.
The Art of Dr Seuss at Beach Street’s Wilson Gallery features 50 works attributed to the much-loved American children’s author and cartoonist who died in 1991.
Except all the pieces – which run from $550-$15,000 – are reproductions, not the real thing.
“The dead don’t create art, much less sign it,” thunders Gary Arseneau, the scam-buster from Florida.
Arseneau tracks the Seuss exhibition around the world, alerting newspapers to his view. True to form, Arseneau contacted Mountain Scene last week.
“It’s the perfect scam.
“They posthumously apply his name … and in the documentation they promote it as his signature.
“I’m not the attorney-general of the art world. I’m trying to share this information so [people] have a choice.
“I’m not telling them not to buy it, I’m just saying know what you’re buying.”
Seuss exhibition curator Ron Epskamp’s initial response was: “I’m not going to dignify him with a response.”
Later, Epskamp emailed an Art of Dr Seuss backgrounder regarding Gary Arseneau: “ … well-known among museum curators and art professionals as a person who’s sent email blasts and other information to the media for over 10 years, claiming artworks by Degas, Rodin, Rockwell are fake”.
The Arseneau-Epskamp exchange probably comes down to how art buyers define ‘fake’.
Casual browsers of The Art of Dr Seuss website may easily think the artworks are Seuss originals – until they get to Frequently Asked Questions. Remem-bering the good doctor expired in 1991, the website says from 1997 “lithographs, serigraphs and sculptures [have been] reproduced from original drawings and paintings” by the exhibition company, under licence from Seuss’s wife.
“Highly-skilled artisans and master printers … faithfully recreate Seuss’s original works. Because the reproductions … were created after [Seuss’s] lifetime, each limited edition lithograph and serigraph bears an authorised printed signature,” the blurb says.
Those signatures are “counterfeit”, Arseneau claims, because they’ve been “applied posthumously”.
Arseneau signs off his missive to Mountain Scene with “caveat emptor” – Latin for “buyer beware”.