If a red Ferrari is painted black and is not built by Ferrari, can we still call it a Red Ferrari?
Just so you know, I’m not in the car business. I work with an internet company that sells framed, canvassed art and posters to online shoppers. We buy from publishers, who pay royalties to artists and we manufacture the finished product right here in North America.
The other day, a customer asked if we carried the red version of Van Gogh’s Almond Branches. This is a famous masterpiece. I had never known that there was a red version. I had to see this for myself. First, I found the history of the original artwork and I’d like to share it with you.
“On January 31, 1890, Theo wrote to Vincent of the birth of his son, whom he had named Vincent Willem. Van Gogh, who was extremely close to his younger brother, immediately set about making him a painting of his favorite subject: blossoming branches against a blue sky.” A BLUE SKY. I’m including Van Gogh’s Almond Branches for you to see the original version.
Without hesitation, I continued my online search to see if I could find the alleged red Almond Branches that Van Gogh painted. To my surprise, I found the version on several art sites. I’m including the image of the blue sky painted red, for you to see. The description reads: “The original masterpiece was created in 1890 and has been carefully recreated detail by detail, color by color, to near perfection.”
Are you kidding me? Did the description actually use the words, “Color by color”?
For the record, I believe that when artwork is interpreted or recreated by another artist, I’m okay with that. But, shouldn’t it be signed by and referred to as the work of another artist? More so, shouldn’t it be priced as if it’s a variation of an original, recreated by an unknown artist?
What I’m really saying is – who are these people who think they can knock off paintings, use the original artist’s name, modify or use the title of the painting and then, sell it for a small fortune? Is this is the fault of the consumer who doesn’t do their research and ends up buying the fakes for $300 – $500 each or do we blame the North American framing companies who are hiring and paying the artists to draw knock offs of original masterpieces?
Brace yourself as I share some shocking facts with you.
The worlds largest market for mass production of imitation art comes from Dafen, a tiny village in Southern China. Their 2.5 square miles include 800 buildings, mostly art-reproduction factories filled with “artists” who are producing hundreds of thousands of fake Van Goghs, DaVincis and Picassos a year.
Wait, here’s my favorite part. These “artists” (who have undergone a rigid 3 month, gallery-sponsored art training course) work from photographs, drawing these knock-offs in an assembly line. Literally, an assembly line. The painters line up and one by one, they complete a different part of the painting. then pass it along, from artist to artist, until it is finished. Imagine what Picasso would say if his saw his work being painted like that?
The governments have gotten involved, to some degree, so let’s not throw them under the bus. In April 2007, the U.S government lodged an official complaint to the World Trade Organization against Beijing for failing to honor intellectual property rights. In response, Dafen’s local government built a $13 million museum in the village, with subsidized housing, to encourage their art graduates to produce original work (for a change).
But still every year, millions of Masterpiece fakes are being painted in Dafen and shipped to North America. Millions of blue skies, painted red.
MADE IN CHINA has many of us grumbling under our breath. Knocks-offs that are mass produced in China, with inflated price tags makes me want to shout out loud. It’s hard enough for a North American manufacturer to make a profit selling product right here. But when the very same customers are spending more money purchasing hand-painted canvas reproductions (a fancy way of saying “fakes from unknown Chinese artists”), I’m simply speechless. And that does not happen often.
How can you tell if you’re buying a knock-off?
First, do your homework. Research what the original looks like. If the artist painted it in blue, then the red is a fake. If there are any obvious dissimilarities or subtle variations, it is a fake. If there is no signature, it is a fake. If it is hand-painted, without a certificate of authentication, it is a fake. Only the publishers are allowed to reprint the artwork. They will protect the artists and pay their royalties as per their contracted agreement. An original painting by the original artist is signed, authenticated and is generally very expensive. All other legitimate reproductions will be fairly inexpensive. In fact, most of the cost is in the framing. The more you pay for a hand-painted, canvas reproduction, the more money you are giving to the companies who are buying it from China.
Can you tell if this is an original Picasso?