Paintings by Paul Cezanne have sold for over a million dollars at auction houses, the last one fetching over $1.8 million at Sotheby's in February of this year. But you can buy what looks like an authentic still life by Cezanne for anywhere between $20 and $180 on the website Oil Paintings-Supplier. The Chinese company boasts a roster of hundreds of modern and contemporary artists, selling hand-painted reproductions that are nothing short of identical to the original masterpieces.
The business of oil painting reproductions has been around for some time, and one might argue it's not really hurting artists like Paul Cezanne or other painters who are no longer with us. Instead, it's allowing art enthusiasts on a budget to admire a work of fine art -- albeit a fake -- in their own home. But for contemporary and emerging artists, it's a drastically different story. Elaine Murphy, an artist from Naples, Florida whose reproduced work is being sold on the site, was not alerted to the organization's decision to use her images, according to an article by Naples News. And these reproduced versions of Murphy's paintings are effectively competing with the original works she's currently making and selling at justifiably higher prices.
Murphy and a Naples law firm quoted in the article claim that the reproductions fall under intellectual property theft, and have embarked on steps to stop the forgeries from being sold. Murphy has contacted the FBI and a nongovernmental group, Legal Art, and is waiting for both complaints to be filed. Lauren Gersny and Pia Lestrade-Dahms from Legal Art told HuffPost Arts in a joint e-mail that about half of their cases are intellectual property issues, and the number seems to be growing. (Case in point: Cariou v. Prince.)
The process of removing Murpy's work from the site is expected to be tenuous, as a certified specialist in intellectual property law, Jeannie Seewald, told Naples News: "You may be able to get the company to take down their listing of your work, but within days they're open on a new site with it. If you keep following them and making them take down their copies of your work, they may decide it's too much of a hassle to be reproducing your art. That's your best chance."
Oil Paintings-Supplier does admit in their "About Us" section to using "more than one hundred skillful and experienced painters" to create the various oil paintings. They even promise to refund a remarkable 110% of the costs if the works do not meet customer expectations. Yet the individual descriptions for each painting make no notice of the fact that the canvases are reproductions, stating in the product description that they are "100% hand-painted oil paintings," complete with the artists' signatures. According to a New York Times article on the famous art forger Ken Perenyi, these types of reproductions have been permissible in the past, and have only been considered acts of fraud when someone actively misrepresents a copy as an original.
What do you think of art reproduction services? Do you think these businesses are bringing fine art to the people or are they jeopardizing the legacies and emerging careers of artists? Let us know in the comments section below!