Paintings For Sale, An Artists Tale.

Paintings For SaleWhen I was invited to go to China for an art show at He Gallery in the 798 Art District in Beijing I was very excited.  My business manager had been contacted by the gallery owner and his wife.  Both were established artists with a strong collector base and they wanted my work to be shown with theirs.  This would be an international show for me and considered an international show for them because I was an American.  Because I’d just received an award from FASO for Outstanding Abstract with my painting “Bubbles” they decided this would be the theme for the show and wanted 3 more identical paintings in larger sizes and in different colors for the show. I wasn’t crazy about this idea, but I agreed to do the paintings.  Tai, one of the owners of the gallery, was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to complete the three paintings before leaving and suggested that I let the other “artists” paint them for me.  I knew about the art factories in China, but this was a gallery owner and artist so I was confused by his suggestion.  He explained that he could take an image of my painting to one of the art factories in the city and they would paint as many as I  needed.  I was shocked and the word “NO” came back to him loudly. I told him that I would do these paintings myself, which I did, and under no circumstances would I allow another artist to paint for me.  I couldn’t believe a gallery owner would even suggest this to me, but I still had a lot to learn about China.

Paintings For Sale

What I found out while there was that this is a very acceptable business in China.  Artists coming out of the universities go directly into these factories because they are guaranteed an income.  The word ethics doesn’t even come into play here.  But what really got to me was that the artists in China had no problem taking advantage of their fellow Chinese artists in this way.  In their way of thinking it’s a job and totally acceptable. They thought I was wrong and to be honest a little nuts for having a problem with this industry.

It’s not just art, it’s everything.  When you go into the malls or go to antique shows at least 90% if not all of everything being sold in China is fake. I found it to be quite insulting that these vendors were trying to convince me that their silver pieces were over a hundred years old.  If I hadn’t had Jessy, my Chinese business manager who speaks perfect English, with me to point out which were fake and which weren’t I probably would have believed what they were telling me.  As for the malls, most know that what they are buying is a fake.  That’s why they are there in the first place.  It’s a game to the vendor and the customer and most enjoy this, but I didn’t and I held to my ethics and didn’t buy.

On the flip side of this issue, when visiting my son in Perth, Australia a year ago we took a trip down the western coast to a lovely little town in the wine country and visited some of the art galleries in the area.  I started talking to one of the artists there.  She was selling prints and told me that they weren’t actually prints, but painted copies done by Chinese artists.  She liked this process because she didn’t trust giclees to hold the color over time and as she put it, her paintings were simple enough that it was much more cost effective to have the Chinese artists paint them then to have giclees made.  I spent a good deal of time with her trying to convince her that this was an unacceptable practice on so many levels and would weaken the already weakened art market, but to no avail.

Paintings For Sale

This is my issue in this debate.  First of all I find is simply wrong to take advantage of the ongoing abuse to people in disadvantaged countries.  These artists get paid pennies an hour to do this work.  My second point is that I feel very strongly about being authentic. We are artists. We are supposed to be authentic.  And I won’t go into copyright infringments. That goes without saying.

The difference is that in China they want you to believe that the work they are selling you is the real thing.  In my case with the three paintings, Tai expected that I would have signed my name to these paintings.  In the case of the Australian artist, she is selling copies of her work as just that, copies.  She is not trying to convince her customers that they are original pieces of art.

I’ve been told by many that I’m terribly naive and that may be true, but most of us in this country were raised to believe that having ethics is commendable.  But to most of the people in China it’s a job that feeds families.  A part of me has compassion for their situation, but a bigger part of me has to say ‘NO’, this is wrong and needs to be stopped.

Paintings For Sale

There needs to be a statement made.  Art must be held to a higher standard.  Personally I find it unbelievable that any sane person would spend $500.00 or more for a purse, but that’s just me.  But in the beginner there was an artist that created the design used to make that $500.00 purse.  Their work should be respected, too.  If we don’t stand together and say “NO” the value of our fine art will go the way of the Coach purse or Nike shoes.

Peggy Guichu is an internationally acclaimed artist working out of Reno Nevada. Peggy has work in private collections throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and China and you can see more of her work at… http://peggyguichu.com