This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I recently received contact from one of the employees who, while working for the company, helped to establish Art4Love. He wanted to help blow the whistle on Chad Love Lieberman -- and further expose the Art4Love copyright infringement scandal -- while at the same time making it clear that Art4Love was originally a legitimate online art business compared to the allegations the website is facing now-- and that others directly or indirectly associated with the website are victims of Lieberman's arrogance and unethical business practices. In fact, the employee informed me that he was "duped into believing it (Art4Love) was a legit company until late 2005.". Due to his profession within the art world and his reputation as a gallery advocate the former Art4Love employee requested anonymity.
The original contact started with the following message:
"If you want to get Chad Love, demand an IRS deep-audit of all personal and corporate returns going back to 2000, including all well-documented backers, all of whom live on Long Island. It all started as a pump-and-dump Pink Sheets stock scheme and fraud was their MO from the get-go. I fear artists are wasting time and effort with a class-action, but let the IRS do what they do best. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and that which is hidden will be revealed."
I was cautious about the message at first. After all, what are the chances that a former Art4Love employee would contact me out of the blue with such vital information. That said, his approach to nailing Chad Love Lieberman, and the now defunct Art4Love, was similar to what another source -- a lawyer with 30 years of experience -- had suggested to me... that perhaps the best way to take Chad down -- and send a message to other would-be infringers -- is for someone, perhaps one of the offended artists, to contact an Attorney General... to release the Feds -- to make this a tax issue and case of corporate fraud in addition to the allegations of copyright infringement facing Art4Love and its owners.
It did not take me long to verify that the whistle-blowing message was indeed legitimate. With the verification that I needed -- and a promise of anonymity due to his professional links within the art world-- the former Art4Love employee agreed to tell me all that he knew about the company. He made it clear that he wanted to "do some good for the artists Chad burned with Art4Love II.". He knew that I had been covering the scandal extensively -- and had made some discoveries of my own concerning fraudulent claims released by the Art4Love pr machine in the past.
The reference to 'Art4Love II' confused me at first. The former employee explained what he meant. He stated, "There have been two iterations: my association was with Art4Love I.". He explained further, "Art4Love I started as a legit way to showcase and sell emerging artists work on-line. Investors from Long Island put in seed money to buy and tailor the basic ASP and SQL database and to recruit artists for a fee and upload their work. It was a co-op site. Artist membership fees would sustain the operation and finance marketing of the art, along with investment capital, and eventually it would be taken public as a tech IPO and everyone would make some money. In 2001, it was a fairly innovative tech-business model, and stood to be a lucrative proposition with no losers, theoretically."
The former Art4Love I employee offered more details about the business model. He stated, "The investors and officers would make money on stock, the artists would make money on art sales, be advertised and have a web-place to send their own buyers during a time when artist websites were still relatively rare. It probably would have worked out as planned too, were it not for the fact that Chad was made CEO as one of the founders.". From what I gathered from the Art4Love whistleblower the problems with Art4Love did not start until Chad Love Lieberman was promoted to CEO of the company.
I asked the former Art4Love I employee if he could confirm that Wall Street guru and financial lecturer Jeffrey Adduci had served as Art4Love's President. After all, I've been trying to clear names of people who were wrongfully associated with Art4Love. He verified that Adduci did work for Art4Love I. The former employee stated, "The corporation needed officers to go public, this is where Jeff Adduci entered. Adduci was known by the three primary investors. These guys were Long Island businessmen and low-level stock brokers.". That said, the former employee made it clear that he did not think Jeff Adduci did any wrong-doing while serving as an officer for Art4Love.
In fact, the former employee suggested that most of the individuals involved with Art4Love I were "all duped" toward the end of Art4Love I's existence by Chad Love Lieberman. It all happened because Chad gained the position of CEO. The former employee stated, "Adduci, other companies, the investors, the artists, me and everyone else were all duped, not by a premeditated stock scheme to defraud (though it was a pump-up-the-value-and-dump-your-shares way to raise capital in my opinion), but by Chad's belief in his entitlement, his inherent laziness, his get-rich-quick mentality and his ultimate mismanagement of the company for personal gain.".
I asked the former Art4Love I employee if he could tell me more about the investors behind the company. He stated, "Their companies pretty closely resemble the movie "Boiler Room" (one spent time on Rikers for perjury to the SEC, another investigated for insider trading) but I didn't learn this until late 2005.". When asked if he could provide names of Art4Love investors, he stated, " I'll leave their names out since to my knowledge they are not involved in the current scandal, but their backgrounds did inform the way they handled the company: fast and loose.".
Concerning the Art4Love I investors the former employee added, "In any case, the investors, I honestly believe, were truly interested in building a legit company they could take public and make money on, and sold it as such, to their associates and investors. All they needed were a few big names on the board to legitimize the venture, and probably offered stock positions in the company in exchange for the use of these names. These people were not involved in the daily operation or decisions, These are not bad guys with ill intentions, but in my opinion they do tend to take too many short cuts. I do not believe now, in retrospect, that they intended to defraud anyone, despite their records."
I asked the Art4Love whistleblower to offer more about his thoughts concerning Chad Love Lieberman in regard to his opinion that Chad has a "belief in entitlement" -- an opinion that Craig Pravda's ex, when I communicated with her, agreed with. . The former employee explained, "You really have to understand the unique culture of Long Island to comprehend fully what this means. Both Chad and Pravda are a byproducts of a sub-culture of Long Island: they're Five Towns Boys. If you know anything about the Five Towns of L.I. then you'd apprehend instantly how this all went wrong. It's a psychology of unearned privilege.". Needless to say, according to what the former Art4Love employee told me, Chad Love Lieberman was the thorn in Art4Love's side -- the source of destruction from within. His arrogance and blind ambition -- which appears to have been his best and worst 'weapon' in business, trait-wise -- would eventually slice the company apart. Unfortunately, those involved in the project -- at that time -- were apparently oblivious to his intentions.
The Art4Love whistleblower told me more about how the company established itself and functioned. He stated, "The company went public on the Pink Sheets through a reverse merger with a shell company in 2005, and the way PS works is that you fax- and email-spam people with press releases on "company news" and sell as much volume in penny stocks as possible to drive up the price. It's mostly unregulated. The Jerry Tavin and Jeffrey Burke "strategic alliances" were "company developments" meant for press releases, nothing more, though they might have believed some legitimate business would flow from it.".
Note: Jerry Tavin informed me recently that the use of his name, Burke's name, and the quotes attributed to the two on Art4Love's press releases were fraudulent -- that no "deal" was ever worked out between the companies... and that the press release was unauthorized. The same situation, I've discovered, has happened to other companies -- bogus press releases about business partnerships that never took place.
The former Art4Love I employee continued, "From Fall 2005 through Dec 2006, I built the company as a corporate art consultancy, and met with many big banks, luxury-condo managers, hoteliers and such, to place our artists' work in rooms, lobbies and offices, with some small success. Artists always were paid when we made a sale, of which there weren't many, to be frank, but they were always paid on sales." In other words, there were individuals working hard to build Art4Love's reputation all while Chad Love Lieberman, the CEO of the company, apparently had other things in mind for the company.
I asked the former employee about the point at which Art4Love I started to crumble. He explained, "The biggest operations problem was that there was never any money for marketing and advertising despite having revenue. We were recruiting artists at $200 each (membership grew from 600 to 1300 during this time) and getting the capital infusion, but Chad controlled the checkbook and there was never any real money available to actually sell and market the art, which I couldn't understand. I tried everything to market without a budget, and this was the genesis of A4L Gallery (the art gallery owned by Art4Love Inc.,), which is now defunct, and has been since Dec 2006."
The Art4Love whistleblower continued, "By Summer 2006, too much income was unaccounted for so I did a little investigative work and examined the books. I discovered that the money that should have been used for building the company and marketing the art, revenue from artists, was going into Chad's pocket "off the books" instead. This is why I mentioned the IRS." The whistleblower made it clear that Chad Love Lieberman is likely more scared of the possibility of an audit than he is of facing copyright infringement allegations from artists on deviantART. He added, "To make a long story longer, because it was a publicly-traded company and I was an officer, I had to report to the other officers what I knew formally, which I did Thanksgiving week 2006. In response, on Dec 5, 2006 they came into the offices at night, removed all computers and files, leaving a show hanging on the walls, and abruptly shut down the operation. Evacuated the premises. So ended Art4Love I."
With the 'death' of Art4Love I the former employee told me that he, Chad, and the others were out of a job. However, he noted that Chad Love Lieberman continued to work with the investors for awhile -- stating, "I'm sure they realized they'd backed the wrong horse, and gradually cut contact with Chad, as far as I know.". The whistleblower added, "Chad left on his own, and having never worked an honest day in his life at 32, he hooked up with Craig Pravda and reincarnated Art4Love, which I refer to as Art4Love II. And so began the saga you know.".
I asked the former Art4Love employee if he has had any direct contact with Chad Love Lieberman since Chad and Craig Pravda launched Art4Love II. I wanted to know if he had any idea as to how Art4Love II operated. The former employee stated, "I am not involved in any way whatsoever in this current brouhaha surrounding Art4Love II.". He added, "I haven't seen nor heard from Chad since the end of Art4Love I.". He offered, "I don't know much about this current incarnation, except that I saw the site and a mirror version called Michael Perez Gallery just recently.".
I asked the former Art4Love I employee if he had any knowledge of Chad Love Lieberman's financial status. He said, "I believe Chad is probably broke or very nearly so." -- which is what Craig Pravda's ex suggested to me as well when discussing Pravda's and Lieberman's business partnership. The former employee added, "I laugh at the claim he owns a mansion or anything else of real value, not likely." I then asked the Art4Love whistleblower if Chad Love Lieberman has any connections in the professional art world. After all, Chad claims association with MoMA and other prestigious museums / institutions. He replied, "Chad has no contacts in the art world and simply appropriates names, logos and institutions. I don't believe he's actually sold any prints or anything else, primarily because he's way too lazy, but maybe he has since he is also very clever.".
I asked the former Art4Love I employee if Chad Love Lieberman had any good qualities -- that perhaps he will do what is right for the artists involved in the end. The employee responded, "There is a compassionate side to Chad, but it is totally eclipsed by rabid self-interest, in my opinion." He added, "If Chad indeed claimed authorship of others' art, it was done simply out of contempt for their talent.". I asked the former employee if the allegations facing Lieberman surprised him. He responded, "What I've read of his recent escapades does not surprise me at all.".
When I asked the former Art4Love employee if he thought that Chad Love Lieberman would pay, legally speaking, for his alleged crimes the employee stated, "I believe he will stay out of the art business after this dies down and that he has sufficiently covered himself so that he can't be legally touched anyway. He is very clever in that respect.". He added, "I am amazed at the audacity of Chad's disrespect, and the degree of malignancy in his narcissism. Astonishing.".
When asked about the deviantART artists involved in the scandal the former Art4Love employee stated, "In all fairness, if artists were more careful and responsible for their art as a business, and had done a little due diligence and research, this recent debacle most likely would not have happened.". He implied that if Chad Love Lieberman 'walks' in regard to the copyright infringement allegations it may have more to do with the artists failing to register their images with the US Copyright Office -- failing to respect the business aspect of their artwork -- while at the same time posting their images for all to see -- and take -- online. However, he also made it very clear that he hopes the artists receive the justice they deserve.
The Art4Love whistleblower was clearly angry with what Chad Love Lieberman and Craig Pravda had done to Art4Love's reputation. Reflecting on his experience with Art4Love the whistleblower added, "I cannot afford to have my reputation sullied by Chad's actions or by any implication that I may be involved. I have to admit I am bitter about it because I worked hard for the company, for it's potential and for the artists, only to be lied to. He jeopardized my public reputation (along with everyone else's) so he could hide. Chad puts people front and center to take the fall for what he's doing behind the scenes, without regard for the unfair damage he may cause. He needs to be held accountable once and for all.".
As long as people continue to help expose Chad Love Lieberman, Craig Pravda and the current scandal involving Art4Love -- he will be held accountable. The artists involved will get the justice they deserve -- and would-be Chad Love Lieberman's will think twice before they try to scam artists, art professionals, art collectors and the public in general. Justice is coming.
Take care, Stay true