June 12

Chinese Oil Painting Knockoffs Go Unabated

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Chinese Oil Painting Knockoffs Go Unabated

I ran an article in the newsletter that preceded this blog. It was titled, The China Syndrome – Assembly Oil Line Paintings Come of Age. I also submitted a press release about the article via PRWEB. Both got a very strong response. Nearly two years since it was written, the latter continues to draw traffic to my Web site on a daily basis. The  point was the rather sleepy art industry (by comparison to software, films and music) was being aggressively attacked by Chinese companies that create oil paintings by the pound. Often blatantly knocking off artists from all genres and locations.

From the numbers provided by PRWEB, it’s obvious it hit a nerve center. The statistics reported this usage: 26,862 times read/2,165 picked up by news media/8 times forwarded/27 times printed/427 times downloaded as a PDF. If you think the adverse publicity or government action has slowed down activity in this market, you’d be wrong. A syndicated article originated in the Toronto Globe and Mail recently caught my eye in Tucson’s AZ Star. Here is the link: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/relatedstories/184714.php. It’s a sickening tale of yet another artist discovering his art being illegally copied and knocked off. 

Around the same time I published my information, Robert Genn of the Painters Keys Twice Weekly Newsletter was also taking up the charge to try and stop knockoffs of his work and other Canadian artists he knew. If you read my story, you’ll see it has been the subject of articles in the New York Times and ABC World News. Despite the press, the situation is far from being corrected.

Unfortuately, the art industry is made up of mostly small business owners with few resources to bring to bear on the problem. The Art Copyright Coalition was formed by some top print publishers to try and bring attention and start legal action where possible. But, it doesn’t have the clout of the recording, film and software industries. And, dishearteningly, those music and film producers have had little success, and so it goes for Microsoft and others behemoths.

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What’s it mean for individual artists? Granted, it’s a problem that robs artists of time, energy and sales when they learn they are being knocked off. I would never downplay the negative effect this has. Realistically, fighting Chinese companies is not something that can easily be done. My newsletter mentioned how Thomas Arvid successfully got a gallery selling cheap knockoffs closed down. But, that is the rare case and Arvid’s success also allows him access to greater resources to fight back than many other artists.

My advice then is if you find you are being knocked off to do whatever you reasonably and realistically can to get it stopped. Beyond that, you have to move on and let it go. Fretting over those things out of our control only wastes valuable energy both physical and mental. Go about your life and know that despite this horrendous misdeed that you are likely not selling to the same type of buyers in your normal marketing. That is, the sort of person who buys crappily produced art from a sidewalk vendor, or in a "Starving Artist" weekend hotel ballroom show most likely isn’t the sort who would recognize the value of your original work versus the knockoffs.

Any day of the week on the streets of Manhattan and virtually everywhere else for that matter, hustlers are selling knockoffs of Rolex watches, Gucci bags and all manner of poorly produced knockoff goods. They target the same mooch buyers as the oil painting by the pound guys. It’s just a thought to keep in mind and to add some balance. Otherwise, it’s easy to get consumed by rage, anger and the desire to seek revenge. Expressing your feelings and then channelling them into positive impulses and actions will serve you far better in the long run.

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About the Author

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

Barney Davey

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  1. Another interesting take on this is the sheer number of tourists from Hong Kong who visit one of these “art-making villages” over the Chinese border in Guangdong province.

    Many people see it as an interesting spectacle, or display of painting techniques.

    While I wouldn’t want my work copied for [someone else’s!] profit, I can see the market for these paintings – and so can the painters.

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for the feet on the street point-of-view. I agree with you in that I wouldn’t appreciate being knocked off, but can understand the fascination with how the process works and to some extent why it’s a bit of human nature to get a “good deal.”

    I suppose as long as there is profit to be made, there will be those willing to trample on someone else’s intellectual property to make it. I’m fairly certain the villagers in China making the copies are as clueless to the havoc it causes world’s away as are poppy farmers in Afghanistan.

  3. I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. I live in Thailand and these ‘knock-offs’ are everywhere. No one who would buy one of these dead, one dimensional ‘copies’ (the copier starts at one corner, and works across the canvass, no layers or underpainting!), would be interested in buying an original piece of ‘art’ anyway. And vice versa, no one who buys original art would give these ‘
    woolworth’ prints wall space.

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