Wednesday, December 26, 2007

artists have written to complain that offshore painters

I may be being a wee bit lazy here, but again another thoughtful article and I just have not been home much over the last week (our 10 year wedding anniversary, many great Christmas celebrations and so much fantastic family).

I hope you have all had a great Holiday and I promise to actual write my own blog entries soon.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

by Robert Genn

Dear Michael Orwick,

Several artists have written to complain that offshore painters, mainly Chinese, are doing such excellent knockoffs that they present a real threat to our livelihood. The phenomenon, they point out, may eventually destroy hard-won lifestyles in the Western world. "Free trade be damned," they say, "we need tariffs."

Summer's Song Triptych by Michael Orwick 3 panels of 12x24" landscape oil painting on canvases

The Painter's Keys has been active in preventing offshore shops from cloning some of our works (in 2006 we removed the work of some 800 Western painters from Chinese clone sites, and closed down two of them completely). Copyright laws and tariffs won't work on those guys. While cheap art in parking lots has always been with us, the Western artist who wants to stay the course has to realize that a name is also an asset. Art is not like shirts, for example, where buyers may not care about name or brand as much as quality and price. Art is not like accountancy either, which is now delivered over long distances by anonymous accountants in India. In art, name is the name of the game. Artists and the art they make are "personalities within communities." These communities may be the whole world, or "The Trail Riders of Podunk County." It's a fact of life that one competently painted horse doesn't sell for the same amount as another competently painted horse. Reasonably decent prices are all about context and perception. Anonymous and "in the style of" work has little context and consequently low valuations. As an outsourcing candidate, art suffers from Baumol's Disease, named for the economist who first described the condition. Some goods and services, he found, resist outsourcing because of their individualistic nature. Further, works by personalities, when they meet certain criteria, are condemned to grow ever more expensive. No matter the idealism or the art-maker's joy, investment is part of our game. Just as common stocks are no fun when they don't go up, art needs to at least pretend. Pitching art down to a price only fills college dorms. A professional artist who puts his DNA into his work need not fear the offshore cloners. Even if the Chinese wizards succeed handily, a fake is still a fake. Art is not just art, it's a life, lived by an individualist with a personality, verve, and a deep respect for human relationships. Best regards,Robert PS: "A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa, but people still line up to see the original." (Louis Armstrong) Esoterica: Artists who would make their way need to see themselves as individualists, sovereign islands and unique brands. Beside the art, what is known about the individual can also be loved. The artist can make his life a work of art. Apart from all the predictions to the contrary, individualism is the key, and individualism will be with us for a while yet. "Like a snowflake we are the beauty of one." (Kathleen Arnason)

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