Monday, July 23, 2007


So, I'm out antique shopping. Yes, antique shopping. I do it because, well, I love my lovely wife. I don't really know what I'm doing when I'm doing it, but I just walk around and say things like "appreciation" and "collectability" while studiously rubbing my chin. As I normally do in very large buildings, I wander away from my lovely wife like a kid in a department store stumbling away from his mother. I make my way to the second floor, turn a corner and there it was. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. What I saw was the killinest, most hideous painting of a monkey that I've ever seen. In fact, it was a small orangutan in a Victorian dress with tulips stacked on her head in front of a backdrop of dense forests. And, because I'm drawn to the bizarre, I immediately begin mentally placing it somewhere in our home. Beautifully framed, I'm thinking on the mantle in the living room. My lovely wife comes around the corner to find me awestruck with my mouth at the floor, drooling over this piece. "Isn't it awesome?" She doesn't reply except with a chuckle. I tell her, "If it's $200, I'm buying it." I search on the wall and find a small card that reads, "Donald Roller Wilson $700." Oh well. A bit out of my price range. We head home.

When I arrive at the house, so with any individual that would, with such craftsmanship and skill, paint a monkey in a dress. I mean, who paints stuff like this? I google the name "Donald Roller Wilson" and, as simple as one would imagine, a site pops up. It's his site. Suddenly, I'm staring at like paintings. I open another window and do a few more searches. I find fine art reviews reading:

"Houston born and Fayetteville, Arkansas-based, Roller is a Gothic storyteller with the phenomenal technique and precision of an old master, animating his paintings with finely wrought clothed chimpanzees, dogs, and cats, wooden matches, dill pickles, asparagus stalks, olives, and cigarette butts."

Dude's just sick, but as the Washington Post would remark, "One utterly forgives the painter's self-indulgences for one reason: he is technically impeccable." Further research would lead me to discover that he's had showcases in the Smithsonian and countless galleries across the nation. In fact, he's been commissioned for paintings from such celebs as Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin, Dan Ackroyd, Robin Williams to name a very few and his work has been used as cover art for two Frank Zappa records. Okay, I start thinking that I might just buy this thing.

I go to his site and see that he's charging and making about $20,000 a painting and I know I'm buying this thing.

That next day, during lunch, I go into the antique store and try to get more information on the painting without, at all, giving up anything to the store owners that would suggest that this thing might be valued at close to 30 times what they're hoping to make off of it. I'm actually nervous when I'm talking to the store owner. I'm trying not to fold, but know she might be onto me. I ask her to take the painting off the wall so that I may inspect it for markings from the artist, Donald Roller Wilson, as it claims on the wall was the individual who painted it. Upon inspecting it in the dim light, I validate it as, firstly, an original--able to identify individual brush strokes and I see a name in the bottom right corner which appears to be "Larry" in script. This brings up a number of questions. She says, "Well, I tried calling the seller, but she's not answering. Perhaps I could take down some of the questions you have and, when she calls back, I'll ask her for you." I tell her that I didn't have a problem doing that. "I wonder if she's had it appraised," she says. I hope not. I make my way back to the office and, knowing that I could just contact the artist myself and hopefully authenticate it himself, I email him.

I explain that I believe I might have come across one of his paintings in a local store and was wondering if he'd be so kind as to help me identify it as his work or, rather, sadly assure me it is not his work, but rather a knock-off.

In the meantime, I'm called by the store owner with answers from the owner of the painting. She explains that it's a print and was purchased for $1500. Okay, I'm not sure how much she paid for this thing, but I know it's not a print. Why would she make such a comment though if it's clearly not a print? And why would she pay $1500 for Donald Roller Wilson print when his website has them available for no more than $900? It's just not matching up. Additionally, she says, "The owner will sell it to you for $600 instead of $700, if you're interested."

That afternoon, I receive an email back from the great Donald Roller Wilson explaining that he would need all of my contact information and images of the painting in order to do any further work. That evening, after work, I quickly make way back to the store with a co-workers camera phone in hand and take two pictures of the painting and email them that evening to Roller.

I anxiously await an answer from Roller. I mean, now, I desperately want this painting and, believe it or not, my lovely wife has now agreed to allow me to display it in the dining room if I end up making the purchase. Incredible. Could I go from owning nothing fine as in "fine art" to finding a painting at a local antique store being sold for only a fraction of its value? Is it possible? I keep thinking that something's gonna give. The owner has it appraised and jacks the price up from $700 to $10,000. Someone sweeps in under my nose and picks it up before I can make it back to the store. I'm waiting for something really bad to happen. When I tell the story to even my closest friends, I make no mention of what store I found it at or make any detailed descriptions of the painting for fear my friends might stab me in the back and buy it before I do.

Two days later, apologetically, I receive an email from Roller. He says that, unfortunately, what I have found is a Chinese knock-off of his work and is not authentic. It would be worth not $20,000, not $10,000, not even $700. It's probably worth only the materials used to make it. Maybe $40 or so.

Here's a lesson for all you hopeful art collectors out there. Rule #1 to art collecting: Don't be a dumbass. In fact, that might be all fifteen rules. I mean, if the artist's name is Donald Roller Wilson and yet on the painting is the name, "Larry," buyer beware. I emailed Roller thanking him for helping me out and he offered to paint me something, but knowing well I can't afford to commission a painting, I politely decline. Maybe someday.

Alright, here's to Mondays--the most awesomest day of the week.


sarahsmile3 said...

Oh my gosh! That just pisses me off. I hope the artist contacted the store and ripped them a new one. It's a good thing you have great investigation skills, J3.

K-Fleet said...

Great work, Sherlock, 700 bones ain't nuttin to f- with! I was wearing The Rootdown shirt yesterday and had several people eyeing it like, "What the F***" Maybe the gun image scared people, but I can guarantee it's an orignal and not a knock-off. :)