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Art Futures Group / Overpriced chinese contemporary art buy/lease scam

1 Hong Kong, Australia Review updated:
Contact information:

After completing an online survey about purchasing art from Hong Kong, with leases in place, I purchased 5 paintings between May 2012 and October 2013, all offered with corporate leases in place, returning 6% per annum.
AFG's salesman, James O'Dell, pushed hard over the phone, not allowing me to talk, and railroading me into buying. I never thought to check current values of the artists works (big mistake) nor to question the ongoing lease of the art, which was my way of seeing a sustainable income for the future.
AFG tout themselves as 'experts' in art broking, and will handle exit strategies when the time is right.
I was offered 5 years storage and free insurance on each piece, photos, sales contract, provenance and where the art would be stored.

A few months before the 1st painting's 2 year lease contract was about to end I started to ask what was going to happen with a new lease. Emails went unanswered for months with weak excuses why. Statements were made that the works might not re-lease. To cut it short, NONE of my paintings, nor the 3 paintings my sister also purchased, re-leased and are currently sitting in storage in Hong Kong.
As AFG claim they are in the business of corporate art leasing, it stunned us that suddenly AFG couldn't lease our paintings again!
The managing director Jon Reade, after several emails, offered to re-lease the works at the same amount, which we declined, and nothing further was done.
After numerous emails, I demanded to see records of the paintings movement between artist, storage (for inspection), then transport to the lease client, and transport back into storage as suspicion that the paintings never were leased in the first place.
I also requested up to date prices for similar works by same artists, to check if the promised 20% gain per annum was realised on AFG's current price list. Of course there was no gain after 4 years.
I was sent a list of expected gain on investments, including wine, property etc, showing art appreciating 99% in 5 years! I also checked auction results of all the artists, and all had sold similar pieces for far less than I had paid! One piece (all artists have series of works with the same theme, so pieces are identical in size, medium, subject matter) I paid Aus$42, 500 and the auction value was $24-$30, 000! For artists in my portfolio that had sold similar works at auctions were far less than I had purchased the pieces.
When I emailed AFG about the huge difference, I was given the 'spiel' about how auctions work, blah blah, all negative.
I contacted several well known auction houses in Hong Kong and China, including Sotheby's and Bonhams and others with a view to sell the works at auction. EVERY auction house I contacted declined to take the works most stating there was NO MARKET for these pieces.
I tried to claim the difference in value for these paintings to the current auction value with no compensation from AFG.
I have asked repeatedly for information on how to best sell them, continually being put off to wait till 'early 2017', which again was met with not a good time to sell, auction houses don't take art under 10 years old, blah blah.
I visited Hong Kong in 2013 to see the paintings and was very surprised that 4 of the paintings were so easily 'removed' from the corporate lessee to AFG's offices.

Basically I feel cheated by fast talking salesmen, who have been rude, abrasive and evasive in answering straight forward questions about our investment in their recommended mid career artists "about to go Blue Chip", and the guarantees AFG gave about their appreciation, which has NOT happened.

In conclusion, buyers beware, do your homework about the real value of these works, and if AFG are recommending an artists and their series of works, check auction results and buy the piece for far less directly yourself!

We would like a full refund of all monies paid, including the guaranteed 20% /annum appreciation on these works.

Art Futures Group
Art Futures Group
Art Futures Group
Art Futures Group
Art Futures Group

  • Updated by Enquiries Mascot Parking, Jun 24, 2018

    Hi everyone scammed by Art Futures Group, I have started a Facebook page to at least have us all under one umbrella, where we will receive notifications, and everyone who joins the group can post links etc. to move us all forward to not only closing this business down, but somehow getting some satisfaction monetarily and emotionally...please please join the group asap as it will carry more weight and get some attention from authorities! FACEBOOK group is private, called AFGSCAM - once all of you have joined, we will petition the Hong Kong consumer council for either assistance or direction to where we can take this further!

  • Updated by Enquiries Mascot Parking, Jun 28, 2018

    Sometimes working with social media is a nightmare! cant get why afgscam wont show up, but noted that FB wouldnt accept 'scam' for a valid moniker - have now registered this email - AFGfraud@groups.facebook.com, use this from now on...I am a very dedicated social justice seeker and will NOT back down from the huge workload ahead of us..could those resident in Hong Kong please advise as 'feet on the ground' are needed to do some legwork - i am in Australia, with a huge workload at the moment, so all assistance is required to put pressure on the artworld who have turned their backs on us!

En
Feb 2, 2017
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Comments

  • Tk
      3rd of Aug, 2017
    Best Best Advice +5 Votes

    I have also had exactly the same experience as you. I have two paintings, which no auction house will touch, whose rental stopped after the initial two year rental agreement. I had the paintings independently valued at around 50% of what I paid. Emails go unanswered, phone calls are not returned and I see with dismay that this operation is setting up in the UK as well. It seems clear that this operates almost like a Ponzi scheme: Paintings are bought from the artist in bulk, maybe at a discount. Sold to "investors" at inflated prices. Then they return your own money back to you at 6% for two years after which time the "rental" income stops. I doubt any of the paintings are ever rented. I have attempted repeatedly to view paintings at the rental location but am always met with excuses. Stay clear of this company. My only hope is that eventually enough people will come forward to discredit a company that is obviously an elaborate scam.

  • Se
      28th of Dec, 2017
    +1 Votes

    @Tkn4aFuul I have the same experience. I think all the buyers should join together and take the case to police. I have 5 art work with them and upon 2 years of each rental complete. You will never get a 2nd rental out. I doubt there were ever a true rental at all.

  • En
      24th of Jun, 2018
    +1 Votes

    @Tkn4aFuul Read my recent post - have opened a facebook group AFGSCAM - please join!

  • Vi
      19th of Sep, 2017
    +3 Votes

    Dear Enquiries Mascot Parking and Tkn4aFuul, Please could you contact me I have similar experience, now I am left with paintings in wharehouse incurring storage charges, tried to sell to auction houses, there is no market, the price is a fraction of what I paid, no rental after 2 years, I asked to see the movement log of the paintings from wharehouse to corporate rental location, they gave excuses.

  • Ti
      22nd of Mar, 2018
    0 Votes

    @Victimised again Hi all, I got similar situation, may I know how are you guys deal with? As I would like to sold it. Any suggestions to find a buyer? Thanks to contact me: yantiffany123@hotmail.com

  • En
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @Victimised again i have started private fb group - AFGSCAM but need to invite you - please email me your email!

  • Fr
      9th of Oct, 2017
    +1 Votes

    the company is a fraud and i have no idea how they are even allowed to conduct business. they have NEVER MOVED the art. i have check movement records. they don't do anything just spin pretty stories of how they are done. the artwork are now decorative pieces value. i e . not even 1/3 of what u paid. in singpore they even double sold or better not give you the piece even though u have ownership and the so called "only piece of certificate"

  • Ch
      25th of Oct, 2017
    +2 Votes

    I am also facing the same issue now. I bought a painting in 2014, and I can't get my painting to be leased since 2016. I have been in contact with Douglas Lucas now since Jon Reade left the company. He also used the same delay tactic of the art piece being young etc etc. This company is a giant fraud- they take some of the money we paid for the art and pay us the first two years of the rental income (12% of the total value). Thankfully I didn't invest a lot of money on this. But I will be getting some reporters in Hong Kong that i know of to start investigate on this issue, and perhaps expose the fraud to the public.

  • Ar
      6th of Nov, 2017
    +1 Votes

    @cheatedbyAFG I bought a painting in 2014 and the storage period will be ended in 2019. I am afraid I can't get back my painting after I saw the above posts. Should we contact more AFG victims?

  • Th
      9th of Nov, 2017
    +4 Votes

    Is there a collective lawsuit that we can pursue with Art Futures

  • Jo
      9th of Nov, 2017
    +2 Votes

    @The Wolnys Yea... pull our resource together and sue them for fraud and misrepresentation. I'm in if there's a lawsuit launched on them.

  • Ju
      19th of Dec, 2017
    +2 Votes

    @Jon Mind Did you ever take this any further?

  • Af
      14th of Nov, 2017
    +1 Votes

    I am the victim too. Please contact me and I hope we can come up with any solutions!

  • Ar
      24th of Nov, 2017
    +1 Votes

    Same here, 4 pieces bought between 2014-15. Rental paid for first 2 years then stopped. I am constantly contacting AFG to either get further rentals, exit the pieces or even have them shipped to UK so I can at least have them on the wall! But as with all other comments on here I am not getting responses. Clearly a scam and we should get together to issue a lawsuit

  • Se
      28th of Dec, 2017
    +2 Votes

    @Artnofuture How can we contact all the victims? We should at least contact the reporters and get the news out and get the attention.

  • Ar
      24th of Nov, 2017
    +2 Votes

    I'm sure we all have appraisal certificates from Roma Group for our pieces. these appraisals show "current market value" figures, which are clearly false. Roma group are a HK public company, (453 million HKD market cap) who have a specialist division in the valuation of fine art

    www.romagroup.com/page.php?top_id=2&id=15&lang=1

    Clearly they got this massively wrong or where under instruction from AFG to product these valuations, either way a potential claim against them stands out. Perhaps it might be worth requesting an up to date valuation form them independently and see what comes back.

  • Af
      24th of Nov, 2017
    +1 Votes

    I have contacted some auction houses and art galleries and none of them accept my art piece! To be honest I only saw the art piece once at AFG gallery. I am pretty sure the rental thing was fake in the first place! Till now, I really doubt that I can take the art piece from their storage. I can’t imagine this company which has world-wide media coverage is a scam!

  • Ti
      27th of Nov, 2017
    +2 Votes

    @AFG victim Please let me know if there is a group set up to go against AFG and the valuation company. I too have been scammed.

  • Se
      28th of Dec, 2017
    +3 Votes

    @Tiggy123 Is there a way to join all the victims together and sue the company? We should get this out and stop the company from cheating money from investors.

  • Gu
      11th of Dec, 2017
    +2 Votes

    I bought a painting in 2013 .James Odeli was the salesman .Rented for 2 years then no response.We should sue the company who placed the valuation.Also James Odeli should be put in jail for fraud.I believe he left the company

  • Ju
      19th of Dec, 2017
    +1 Votes

    Hello has anyone got any advice on how to take this further with a complaint to the Hong Kong Consumer protection board or equivalent authority?

    Regards

    Julian Bott
    jgbott@gmail.com

  • An
      22nd of Jan, 2018
    +1 Votes

    I am a victim too. I also bought 2 art works from Art Futures Group in 2012 and rented only for 2 years. Been trying to get their help to place the art works into auction since last year but Douglas Lucas kept giving excuses that the art works are not "old" enough. In fact, AFG even suggested that I buy more from them and promised that if i do so, they will help place my paintings into new corporate leases. I declined their offer as i didn't want to throw good money after bad.

    Have anyone managed to take any action against them yet?

  • En
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @annoyed2018 Email me your email as have started a private fb group - AFGSCAM - to make it easier to post info

  • Ar
      14th of Feb, 2018
    +1 Votes

    I think we need to get together and find out the true scale of this fraud. The UK and Hong Kong have laws that should at least stop the guilty from further exploitation.

  • En
      24th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @ArtisticFrauwd Have started a Facebook group about AFG - please join - AFGSCAM

  • Ja
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @Enquiries Mascot Parking Cant find the page when i search FB!

  • En
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @JanF Im not sure why cant find it, perhaps as a private group - do want to keep us as 'undercover' as possible to not alert afg - email me your email to personally invite you

  • Ar
      14th of Feb, 2018
    +1 Votes

    Does anyone know any journalists who might do an expose on them?

  • Kk
      15th of Feb, 2018
    +1 Votes

    I have the same issue and we should gather together. How can we contact one another? I can be reached at asian_tsar@hotmail.com. Recently, they reached out to me and asked me to pay for my storage cost.

  • Mi
      11th of Mar, 2018
    0 Votes

    @KK Lee Seems we were scammed in the same year, my storage will be up soon as well. I will send you an e-mail. With the Art Season starting in HK, they will go and look for investors :-(

  • Ja
      9th of Mar, 2018
    0 Votes

    Yes, me too. I have two works no longer earning rental and I am now paying for storage. Bth purchased through AFG's James O'Dell. My current AFG broker does nothing when I ask about selling except to say its a valuable investment I should hang on to! Christie's Asian Contemporary Department in Hong Kong have today responded via Christie's here in Australia that these works will not be suitable for inclusion in one of their auctions. So what's the next step?

  • Fe
      11th of Mar, 2018
    +1 Votes

    Have any one of you taken actions yet? I also bought 2 art pieces and they were not rented after the first 2 years. Company is a total fraud and I checked the last auction prices for my art works and they were just a fraction of what I paid! Not sure how Roma could have appraised such a high value to the art pieces in the first place. Obviously? both companies, Roma and AFG are in cahoots.

  • Mi
      11th of Mar, 2018
    +1 Votes

    I have exactly the same experience. Bought an obviously overpriced painting with a Roma appraisal, rental stopped after 2 years. Salesman stopped taking phone calls, never answered my e-mails, even pretented to be someone else on the phone - utterly ridiculous. My free storage will come to an end soon, and I do not have any illusions about selling it with a profit.

  • Fe
      12th of Mar, 2018
    +2 Votes

    Wondering if there is any way to raise a complaint against the AFG to the HK consumer complaints body ?

  • En
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @Feelingcheated2018 i have been fighting afg and auction houses, including hk consumer complaints for several years, with NO response from anybody! now there are so many of us the sheer volume of complaints must start 'shaking trees'. send me your email to be invited. once there are more members, we can as a group start a pressure campaign. afg needs to be shut down

  • Vi
      13th of Mar, 2018
    +1 Votes

    I confront the similar situation as well, keep looking forward the new rental which recommend by the art broker but nth. And now my storage will be up soon, I’m asking them help me to sell out my piece even they have higher charge of about 20-30%...but I’m not very positive on this case. If there is a group against with them please let me know too.

  • En
      28th of Jun, 2018
    0 Votes

    @Victims2 i have started a fb private group, send your email to me to be invited - group name is afgscam

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