The NYT is going all-out on what seems to be little more than a storm in a
teacup about whether or not Costco sold a couple of fake Picasso drawings. The
article was published on Thursday and corrected on Friday; today, Saturday,
there’s a lengthy follow-up
article which was reported by Daphné Anglès and Alan Riding
in Paris, Carol Kino in New York, and David Hochman in Newport Beach. Yikes!
Must be important, no?
Actually, not really. The story seems to be this: Costco started selling art
on its website, including a couple of Picasso drawings, which were sourced from
Rick Yamet, a fine-art vendor in Peekskill, N.Y. A bit of Googling finds him
a dubious Picasso print in the past, so maybe Costco’s dealer, Jim Tutwiler
of Boca Raton, was a bit too trusting of Yamet. But ultimately the art world
is swimming in fake Picassos, which is why buying from Costco is actually a
very smart move. If a buyer has second thoughts about any drawing, be they to
do with its authenticity or even simply that it doesn’t go with the sofa, then
it can be returned for a full refund.
But here we have NYT reporters banging on buyers’ front doors, leaving messages
for the CEO of Costco, and generally behaving as though they have uncovered
a major scandal. Why the seeming overreaction?
Two reasons, I think. Firstly, the correction on Friday. No reporter likes
to have to issue a correction, so when it turned out that the original article
had got a couple of facts wrong, the Times decided it was going to town on the
story to pin it down. Secondly, the Times ran a gushing
profile of Costco’s art-selling operations a couple of years ago, complete
with details of Costco’s quality-control mechanisms and use of outside appraisers.
As recently as last November, Online Shopper columnist Michelle Slatalla was
complimentary about Costco’s fine-art franchise. Maybe the Times, embarrassed
at its former enthusiasm, is now overcompensating.
Ultimately, however, the first two articles trusted in Costco for a very good
reason: the company’s full-refund guarantee, which stands uncontested. Much
dirtier dealings than Costco’s go on in the art world every day; it’s not clear
why the NYT has decided to pick on Costco like this.