An art expert claimed to have found over 40 fake paintings being sold on the auction site eBay, warning that more may exist on the site if inadequate action is taken. 

Dr. Carina Popovici, who has had years of experience in authenticating artworks, discussed her findings with online news outlet The Guardian. The artificial intelligence found at least 40 of the paintings sold on the website could be counterfeit. 

“We looked today and we downloaded some images, and there were fakes all over the place. Everything that we have [analyzed] turns out to be not real art, a negative probability with 95% or so. I’m sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. 

Claude Monet's "Woodgatherers at the Edge of the Forest." Photo from Museum of Fine Art Boston. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Claude Monet’s “Woodgatherers at the Edge of the Forest.” Photo from Museum of Fine Art Boston. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

She claims that a Claude Monet painting entitled Forest With a Stream priced at $599,000 might be fake. She also identified a study of Claude Renoir costing $165,000 as fake. The seller denied this allegation before taking down their post on the painting.

Counterfeit Art

Popovici, who heads the Swiss art authentication company Art Recognition, said that she had contacted eBay multiple times regarding this matter since 2023, but has received no response from the company. 

“I’m extremely frustrated that they don’t answer. I’m really very disturbed about this. They have a responsibility. They can’t just pretend that they don’t see what is happening, because there is so much of this. There are clear indications that there is a major problem there,” she said. 

Sign for eBay headquarters. Photo by ebayinc. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Sign for eBay headquarters. Photo by ebayinc. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

eBay, however, has hit back on this assertion by saying that they committed to dealing with counterfeit products on their platform, with their own team and algorithm to find potentially misleading or inauthentic postings. They also said that they took down the posts with the flagged paintings. 

“We do this by using multiple layers of AI technology, professionally trained eBay investigators and buyer protection programs,” the company said. “eBay proactively blocked 88m suspected counterfeits from being published in 2022, while removing 1.3m items from the platform following a review by an eBay investigator.”

Art Recognition Algorithm and Hardware

Popovici’s Art Recognition company utilizes an artificial intelligence algorithm that can analyze artists’ works closely and compare them to authentic works of artists in the past. The company collects high-quality images from the artists and from known counterfeiters and forgeries, and trains the algorithm to recognize different parts of the artists’ work. 

“[The] AI captures fine details such as the artist’s brushstroke, edges, shapes, color variations; high-level composition elements including motif repetition, object placement, and overall proportions; as well as other features that are distinctive to the analyzed artist,” their website said. 

Computer servers farm. Photo by Helpameout. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Computer servers farm. Photo by Helpameout. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

They utilize two artificial neural networks for the task: one is the Convolutional Neural Network and the other is the Vision Transformer with Shifted Windows. Human checkers analyze and put up to task the results to ensure accuracy. The company also regularly tests its systems as a way of detecting generative-AI artworks. 

Popovici claims that her company’s algorithm can easily detect fakes from a photograph, making it easier to spot a fake online. “You can just download an image and then in 10 minutes, you will know,” she claimed.

Related reading: Expert Forger of German Renaissance Woodcuts Sentenced to Four Years

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