Israeli art students - scam?

We just had a visitor who claimed to be an Israeli art student. He had a portfolio of about 20 paintings, supposedly by himself and his colleagues, which he was trying to sell. It was mostly middlebrow stuff - tacky landscapes, amatuerish nudes, copies of Picasso, Van Gogh and Jack Vettriano - but there were one or two decent ones and we ended up buying one for what seemed like a reasonable price for an original(ish) piece of art.

Now the reason I am posting is because it seemed a little fishy. I have seen these guys once or twice before and wondered whether it is on the level. When I probed about his work and his colleagues he was a bit vague. He offered to set us up with a framer but when we asked for his number he said “it doesn’t work like that - I don’t have his number, just give me your details and he’ll be in touch”. We didn’t want to give him our phone number so we left it at that.

My guess is that the art is made in, say, China, very cheaply and these guys are just travelling salesmen who flog it but don’t necessarily know anything about art.

A google search turned up a supposed spy ring conspiracy but I’m sure it was nothing as sinister as that.

Anyone know the straight dope?


Thet’ve reached the US now? Back when they tried to get me to work for them (1996) it was South Africa. The salespeople are as nearly much victims of the fraud as the buyers - they have to provide airfare as well as a “deposit” for the paintings. It’s a pyramid sceme.

China sounds right for the origin of the paintings. All they told us was “The Far East.”

they’ve been in Canada for years. Ive had them visit our offices in Toronto and Hamilton since at least 2000.
Or at least people using the same MO as the OP.

I have seen similar scams with knife sets, stereos, and steaks.

Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum. I feel sorry for the door to door workers who get the short end of the stick along with the suckers (buyers.)
Never buy this way, you will find better and cheaper products thru Brickfronts.

If that’s “middlebrow,” I don’t wanna know what’s “lowbrow.”

(I guess Thomas Kinkade would be “nobrow.”)

Israeli art students at Wikipedia.

Were the Israelis just trying to sell their paintings, or agents in a massive espionage ring?

Oh well, looks like I’ve been suckered. At the end of the day we liked the painting enough to pay what we did, so I don’t feel completely ripped off.

:slight_smile: Fair point. I was thinking sports art and paintings of Tony Soprano having lunch with Don Corleone, the kind of stuff you see in those island displays at malls.

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a spy, at any rate.

Thanks for the info, everyone.

Have you checked the painting for hidden microphones? :wink:

Think, “Velvet Paintings of Elvis.”

why is it a scam?
They’re offering a product at a price, and if you like it, you buy it. You know it’s not a Picasso, so why do you care if the seller is a “student” selling his own works or an agent selling somebody else’s?

Me–I hate door-to-door salesman, and would never let one into my house.But this it’s a legit business deal. (if somebody has “been suckered” it’s the salesman victimized in a pyramid scheme.That’s his problem, not yours.)

I remember a thread on this a couple of years ago. I’ll see if I can find it.


What’s the scam?


Well, he wasn’t who he purported to be. As I mentioned my bullshit detector was on and I factored that into my decision, but I was still a little disappointed to find out the truth.

Others might swallow the story hook line and sinker and buy the painting under false pretences. Maybe someone would think they were buying into an up-and-coming talent. Maybe they have a romantic notion of supporting a struggling artist. I think these people would feel ripped off when they found out the truth. Hence, a scam.

Keep your BS detector on the same high alert if you ever go on a cruise ship and attend an “art auction”. It’s a huge scam with no recourse because it occurred on the high seas.

No, I didn’t get taken but a friend of mine is in the high-end art business and has had too many cases of having to break the news to the suckers who thought they were having a good time on their cruise only to find out that they were fleeced.

Here is a link about these students that asked if they were Mossad agents.

The scam is the phony story they tell as their sales pitch. Part of the enticement is getting customers to think its not so much about buying a product, but helping out a student. This isn’t much different from the door-to-door magazine sellers who claim to be “in a contest” or “raising money for college.”

Many people don’t mind paying $3 for a candy bar when the kid down the street is raising money for a class trip or for band uniforms. If the kid’s just doing it for pocket money it’s a different story, and prospective customers have a right to know the truth.

My son got sucked into a perfume sales scam when he was a teenager. So gullible. It was a terrible scene. A whole bunch of kids living in one hotel room, no money in his pocket (everything went to their leader). He lasted a couple weeks. Some kids just don’t listen.

I was discussing this with an old employer last night, asking if they were still making the rounds. He found out that soliciting without a permit is illegal in his area. So now when they stop, someone looks at the merchandise while awaiting 5-0.

If this story is true, there is far more than a scam associated with “Israeli art students.”

Here are some links to some followup commentary on the article.

I have seen nothing recently on this story, so it must have been shown to be BS or too hot to handle.