This popped up in my email spam folder today:

Welcome to the Oil Painting Studio.
We have been successfully working with fine art galleries and artists internationally for over a decade. Our museum quality realism is created by 25 of Chinese most skilled artists. Each artist has been formally trained and has received their degree from many of the finest art universities in China and abroad. Our artists have afforded our numerous clients, including art galleries, established artists, private parties and other interested individuals, the ability to increase their customer base, realize a much higher profit margin and acquire perfectly executed fine art oil paintings. We are presently working with galleries, fine artists, photographers, digital designers and private parties who are interested in realizing a faster way to create a highly lucrative environment by offering extremely high quality oil paintings at the most competitive pricing in the industry. [...etcetera...emphasis mine]

I’m speechless; I hardly know what to say to the proposition herein, never mind the errors of grammar. Are there actually artists who, like some big corporation, are “offshoring” the production of their paintings???

I thought art would be one of the great bastions of endeavor that couldn’t be mechanized or automated. Is this actually believable?

6 Responses to “And farming art out…”
  1. Susan Fox says:

    Oh yes, absolutely. I read an article recently, and if I can remember where I saw it I’ll post it, that there is a whole area in a Chinese city with multiple “studios” doing exactly what is described above. In fact, a couple of years ago, the word went out to all the members of the Society of Animal Artists that work by some very prominent names had showed up as bad copies on the website of one of these “studios”. The SAA was looking into legal remedies, but probably found out that there was little that they could do without a bottomless pocket book. As in so many areas, as it turns out, China has a great deal to learn about respecting other people’s civil and human rights, intellectual property rights and just generally how to be a decent global citizen. This kind of thing is just one symptom of a big, big problem. And don’t even get me started on Tibet.

  2. Joe says:

    For sure this happens. My friend owns a huge European antique furniture store and he buys these paintings from china in bulk. Then he puts good frames on them and sells them to furniture shoppers for a lot of money. The paintings I saw were all cheesy rip offs of Old Masters, mostly impressionists.

  3. Susan Fox says:

    I just mentioned this to my husband and, bless his heart, he remembered. It was an article in The Economist, June 8, 2006 (I googled the date. He’s good, but not that good.) called “Painting by Numbers”. You have to be a subscriber to access it on-line or I would have posted the link. The good news, as I recall, is that the artists themselves are starting to go beyond just painting rip-offs and are doing some really interesting contemporary art, which they are finding good markets for. So, send some positive vibes their way.

  4. Larry Jewett says:

    I can understand why a gallery might want to take advantage of the opportunity to get relatively cheap paintings, but why would an established artist ever want to do it? Presumably, if they are established they can probably command a good enough price for their paintings to make the time and effort worthwhile as it is.

    Also, if they are established, that means they have probably developed their own distinctive style which would be hard for another person (eg, at a shop in China) to duplicate. So people would probably know it if the artist tried to farm out their work. And if anyone found out, the artist’s career would be over, so there is a huge disincentive.

    Of course, sometimes people don’t think before they do things (eg, Eliot Spitzer), so i guess anything is possible.

  5. Rosemary says:

    Well, maybe this explains what I saw at the NY Art Expo last month. There were more than a handful of artists who had STACKS of paintings being shown by the galleries representing them. Most of them were riffs on a theme, landscapes mostly. This one Canadian artist did birch trees and they were selling for several thousand dollars each. I couldn’t get over the quantity — how could anyone paint that many paintings??? And all of the same thing — some had one birch, some had two groupings of birches, one big/three small, etc — all the same color scheme and GOBS of paint. It looked troweled on. But, I have to admit they were appealing and the gallery rep said they were “top sellers.” So maybe the artist outsources them? Duh — I’m such a purist (or so naive) that never even occurred to me! I guess it’s really just a variation on Kinkade.

  6. Larry Jewett says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny if two artists next to one another at an Art Expo had outsourced to the same artist? If enough people do it, it is bound to happen eventually.

    I think the “farm out” (sell out?) is really the extreme case, but let’s face it, no one is as “pure” as they would like to think they are.

    Some people would never “farm out”, but they would not hesitate to do their drawings by projecting images. I’m not saying the two are equivalent, just that “purity is a matter of degree. In fact, some purists would probably never even use a photograph — not even as a “reference.” And the REAL purists would not use their hands and would blindfold themselves and do the painting from memory with their brush held in their teeth (anything more is clearly cheating).

    Personally, I can’t see what the point is (other than perhaps to make lots of money, that is! But I wouldn’t know anything about that, at least not with regard to art work)

    For me, the enjoyment — and challenge — comes from actually doing the drawing ( mainly erasing) and painting from scratch. but then again, I don’t make a living (or even a dying) off my paintings. (good thing too!)

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