Art fraud on TradeMe
In 2004 TradeMe expanded the fine art section of their site. It quickly became a busy area and gained popularity with artists and art buyers alike. Gone were the gallery commissions of up to 55%, and TradeMe's "no sale/no fee" policy encouraged new artists to list their work directly at almost no cost.
The impact hit bricks and mortar auction houses hard. In April of that year traditional auction house Dunbar Sloane downsized their Auckland operation and laid off four of it's six staff. Within a short time TradeMe had become the place for artists to deal directly with their customers.
A great place to buy art
NOTE: Since this page was written TradeMe have removed the "NZ Original" section from their art area. This unfortunate move has angered kiwi artists and given sellers of "Hong Kong Horrors" an even better opportunity to pass their works off as originating from local artists.
There are certainly art bargains to be had on TradeMe and this has introduced a lot of new people to the art world. Many had never stepped inside an art auction in their lives. While the ability to buy art in the comfort of your own home had expanded the market, a lot of these new art buyers were naive. And wherever you find gullible people, scammers won't be far behind.
In March 2005 the ScamBusters became aware of an emerging art fraud being conducted via the TradeMe site. Over the next couple of months this developed into a major investigation.
Peter Vink - art fraudster
Wellington artist Peter Vink began selling his works on TradeMe in late 2004, and quickly developed a loyal following.
His large oil paintings, mainly sunsets from New Zealand locations, started selling for substantial amounts... up to $3,300 each. And the man was profuse, turning out four major oils a week to keep up with demand.
In a mere five months Vink sold over $120,000 worth of paintings online and had developed a loyal following who fawned over every auction he listed.
Peter Vink had become one of the biggest TradeMe success stories of all time. Or had he?