Native Indian artwork has increasingly become more popular, and consequently, many people have decided to take advantage of this trend and try to pass fake pieces off as authentic Native art. So if you want an authentic Northwest or Inuit hand-carved piece, you'll need to be wary of these reproductions. Keep in mind the following common features of reproductions, whether you're browsing online or through galleries and art shows, and you'll reduce your chances of being swindled by a fraud.
Look at the materials used in any carving.
Northwest and Inuit carvings are usually made from stone or wood. Northwest native art is traditionally carved from red cedar, so if you spot a seller claiming a carving is authentic, inquire after the type of wood. If it's anything other than red cedar, don't waste your time.
Inuit stone carvings commonly employ a serpentinite stone, argillite, and in some regions, pink marble or quartz. Because of the difficulty in ascertaining the type of stone a carving is, it can be tricky to pick out a fake. Look for perfectly straight edges and for carved lines or grooves where the artist's tool shaped the piece. If you can't see any carving lines and you see straight edges, chances are, it's a piece that was cast from a mold.
Look at the colors of any painted carving.
Northwest Native art usually employs no more than three to five solid colors. Black is always present, and the second most featured color of authentic Native art is red. Any colors used thereafter are usually for emphasis or accents and will most likely be blue, green, yellow, or white. If you see any colors other than these, you're most likely looking at a fake.
Inuit carvings are generally colorless, and if you see an item that has been painted or glazed with enamel or bright colors, it's most likely a reproduction.
Take a look at the price tag.
Authentic Native art, carvings, totem poles, and other works will be quite expensive. This is because each artist creates their art by hand. You will be purchasing a true work of art, and consequently, the price should match. If you find a hand-carved piece at a garage sale price, you're not looking at an authentic Native art carving.
Are you buying online?
Many Native artists don't sell their work online, but instead through reputable Native art galleries, or from their own place of residence. This is not to say that you won't find some online Native art galleries, but if you're looking for authentic Northwest or Inuit carvings, you'll want to stay away from auction websites and other websites that don't have any information about the artists.
If you do happen to be perusing online galleries and are considering a purchase, take a printout of the piece you want and show it to a professional art dealer who works with Native art. They'll be able to help you determine if it's a fake. For more information, contact Cheryl's Trading Post or a similar company.