Selling 'The Painter of Light'

April 12 2012

Image of Selling 'The Painter of Light'

Picture: Thomas Kinkade

The death of US artist Thomas Kinkade has shed an interesting light on the industry that can spring up around a successful artist these days. Lovers of fine art might not like Kinkade's work, best described as John Atkinson Grimshaw on acid, but there's no denying his phenomenal popularity in the US. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kathleen Pender looks at the impact Kinkade's death has had on sales:

Works by Thomas Kinkade have been flying off gallery walls since the artist and marketer extraordinaire died unexpectedly at age 54 in his Los Gatos home Friday.
Nathan Ross, part-owner of the Original Thomas Kinkade Gallery in Kinkade's hometown of Placerville (El Dorado County), has not had time to count how many canvas reproductions have sold since Friday, but "I don't think I am exaggerating if I said 200," he says. On a normal weekend, he sells two or three. [...]
The spike in sales marks a sharp turnaround for the Kinkade brand, which has been in decline since its heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Gallery owners attribute the falloff to the economy, a decline in the collectibles market and oversaturation - the Kinkade name has been on everything from calendars and figurines to La-Z-Boy furniture and a housing development in Vallejo.
Allen Michaan, president of Michaan's Auctions in Alameda, says it's not unusual to see collectors snapping up works after an artist dies. "That is a typical reaction. People think when an artist dies, his work goes up in value."
Michaan would not be surprised to see Kinkade's originals, which are rarely on the market, appreciate but says, "I don't think there is any lasting value" in his reproductions. "A rule of thumb: Anything that is manufactured and marketed as a collectible really isn't."
Kinkades start at $750 for a 12-by-18, standard-edition, signed (by auto-pen) and numbered canvas reproduction and go up from there, with a bewildering array of options.
Each image has several editions - such as standard, artist proof, gallery proof, publisher proof, Renaissance, studio proof and master. Each edition has a successively smaller number of prints and a higher price tag. Higher-end versions also have a hand signature instead of a machine-generated one and additional highlighting (applied by trained artists) that add texture and depth.
In the Bay Area, the most popular Kinkades include Disney themes and scenes of San Francisco, Napa Valley, Carmel and the coast, Perata says. "The ones that are more religion-based sell amazing in the Bible Belt."

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