The radio show This American Life ran a very interesting story last weekend. [It can be heard from this link]
Schandra Singh is an up and coming artist, fresh out of art school UK advertising mogul and gallery owner Charles Saatchi purchased some of her paintings and soon, everything she created was being swept up by art admirers and investors. While I'm sure Schandra was grateful for her success a creative soul can find the commercial aspects of the art world a little ungrounding. Some, perhaps much of her work was being purchased by people not because they appreciated or even liked her art, they were buying it because they expected them to appreciate in value. In short, her work had become (to some) a commodity to invest in.
So one morning when she received an email from a father of a dyslexic child in the UK tell her how much her art touched the disabled teen, Ms. Singh was touched. An email correspondence grew which led to some ink pen sketches from the autistic youth being exchanged for some of Schandra's work. A simple collegial gesture between fellow artists. It was later that when describing the situation to a friend of hers, who happened to be from Nigeria that that friend recognized the last name of the people Schandra had been dealing with were from Nigeria.
Some time later Ms. Singh was speaking with a fellow artist who was telling her a very familiar story. A father of a dyslexic child living in the UK and that child was very touched by this artists work.
All told the father of the autistic child (now 15 years old) has amassed a conservative estimate of better than $100k in artwork in exchange for some ball point pen on plain paper drawings. But here's the thing, he might not have told a lie. The kid did draw the the sketches and he does seem to love art. But the father is clearly running a game, he's going to Charles Saatchi's website to find up and coming artists who's work is very likely to appreciate in value, and cajoling then to giving his son valuable paintings. But at the same time, I'm not sure if he's breaking any laws.