That supposedly rare or limited-run lithograph you have your eye on may look great on your wall, but it could very well be a fake.
Art appraiser Lee Drexler says reproduction could easily be mistaken for the real thing. Fake lithographs are flooding the art market, but Drexler is on the case.
Drexler has been spotting fake lithographs, also called "lithos," for years. She says too often proud new litho owners come to her, only to find out that they have been ripped off. She recalls one young couple who spent all of their wedding money on a Matisse print, hoping to make a killing.
"Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," she says. "They see the word Matisse, they're in Hawaii, they think they alone know Matisse's work, so they go to buy it and they're cheated. They lost pretty much all their money."
A litho is a work of art painted or etched directly on a steel plate by the artist, then it's reprinted in a limited number.
Drexler says they can be faked in a snap.
"They're photo engravings, many times just photographs of good lithos or they take an old plate and they re-run it over and over."
She says there are several ways to tell if a litho is the real deal.
"The paper should be of a good enough quality so it hasn't yellowed too much over the years," Drexler says. "The frames shouldn't be jazzy. A lot of these places that are selling fraudulently use gorgeous, huge frames with gold all over."
Other red flags are if the litho is numbered above 250 and if it doesn't have press markings.
"Bottom line is if you're going to spend a considerable amount of money seek an expert's advice before, because you might love it, but you'll hate it when you find out it's no good," she says.
Drexler also warns shoppers to be wary of floating auctions, short term auctions usually hosted at hotels or on Cruise ships.
She says do your homework and only patronize established auction houses.