THE F.B.I. & THOMAS KINKADE
Arrogance is not the way to conduct investigations, but if what I have observed in recent years is any indication of the direction this investigation will go, Thomas Kinkade is in deep trouble whether he is guilty of any wrong-doing or not. His attorney bills will be $100,000 at the minimum, whether he is guilty of any wrong-doing or not. And he will be sorely inconvenienced for months, whether he is guilty of any wrong-doing or not. Experts, you see, come out of the woodwork for either side and one has to exercise care in whom you select for your information. College instructors, for example, seldom have any experience in the real world
, the business world, the selling of art on a day to day basis, and those that do do not need a College Degree in order to be a success in the field of art. Who would you turn to for expertise, the college professor with tenure or the professional dealer who has spent twenty years on the floor?
Certainly, an FBI agent with four or five prints on his wall at home may have little idea of where to begin and there aren't any books written that will guide him, so he has to turn to other art dealers to gain some knowledge. Time and again when I had an Art Gallery on Wilshire Blvd., in Los Angeles, members of the FBI, the L.A. County Sheriff's, and the L.A.P.D., would stop by to discuss some matters they were investigating and listen to what we had to say. In some areas we were of great help to them, in others, little. My Gallery Director at that time, Godfrey Gaston, had expertize in different areas than I did, and I know that between us, we gave them a lot of inside information that helped them tremendously in the work they were doing.
In one law-suit that I filed personally against another dealer for selling me a forgery of a Dali print, I had one of the most careful and knowledgeable dealers I knew, Bernie Sternthal, testify on my behalf, but the Referee, a retired judge, asked him one question, "Do you have a College Degree in Fine Art?", and when my witness said, "No", the judge disallowed his testimony. Sternthal had more practical knowledge and experience in that particular field of art than you could find in a dozen rooms full of College Graduatesl. There were literally no scholars in that particular area that was involved in my law-suit, but the Judge had his own riduculous opinion on what constituted expertise and what did not. Does it take a College Degree to be knowledgeable? Hell, no. Stupidity comes in all degrees, even amongst judges. Is there any legal precdent saying that an "expert" must come to Court with a college degree?
In recent years though, there seems to be a different attitude on the part of investigators, the "we know everything" and therefore, like the Pope, infallible. In one matter, I had for company and discussion, an old, retirned, FBI agent and he was apalled at what we had experienced in a case that eventually collapsed, because we had been right all along. It took a year or so before the D.A. folded it, but there were untold thousands in investagation costs, attorney's fees, wasted time, grief and fear of prosecution for those investigated, sort of a reign of terror if you will, because the investigators absolutely refused to pay any attention to the voices of experience and reason, or to view anything that was contradictory to the case they were building that was false from the beginning to the end.THE COTTAGE INDUSTRY
Thomas Kinkade, for example, is only one of a succession of artists who derived a living by painting scenes with English cottages and manors, following Marty Bell, for example, Dennis Lewan, Richard Peterson, and others that escape my mind. Marty Bell and her husband, for example, visited me in my gallery in Los Angeles and asked me to represent her work, to develop a sales plan, and I turned them down. Steve Bell then took on the job and did more than I ever could have done to make his wife, Marty, a national name, and they built sales that were in millions. Even if I had had foresight and had realized her potential, my answer would still have been in the negative. I simply did not like the work and still don't. But I had not criticism of their success; they followed their dreams
A while later I became the agent and publisher for another painter, who also did fine English cottages and Manor Houses, Dennis Lewan. He was then and still is, in my estimation, the most ethical and business-considerate artist of this group, or of many groups for that matter. We began to invade the Marty Bell market, and soon had several very successful prints on the market.
It was around this time that we began to hear about another "cottage painter" named, Thomas Kinkade. Dennis and I had been strongly moving in on Marty Bell's market, but then we had a period of confusion, and in walked Thomas Kinkade and Lighthouse Publishing to take over our accounts and make the competition interesting and tough. He came on like a steam locomotive and soon had the major portion of the market for this type of print, Marty Bell fading into the background. Marty Bell, for example, had been losing dealer confidence when she began to steadily increase the number of prints in each editon from 950 S & N, plus A/P's, to 1,800 and upwards. This aroused those dealers who had a firm opinion that Editons should always stay below one thousand S & N prints. True, it is an arbitrary figure, but at the time it was pretty much standard in the industry.
Steve and Marty had also begun insisting that dealers buy a certain quantity of each print, which now exposed the underside of the business, the "dogs" that begin to accumulate in a dealer's storeroom, the slow-sellers. This is where you develop ill-will and begin to lose your dealers, by forcing them to "eat the dogs" that you should acknowledge as mistakes and not force upon your dealers at all. Who really knows in advance what will sell and what will not? One Editon may sell out in weeks, 100% fully sold out, while another at the end of the year has sold only 15 to 25%. Every publisher experiences this problem.
Eventually, from what I was told, Steve and Marty Bell, once riding high, faced a long and trumatic financial upheaval. The cause, from my observations, over-confidence, greed and arrogance. That's my opinion and most it is probably shared by many dealers who did business with them. You cannot mistreat your dealers and survive for long. The dogs
slowly begin to eat up your profits from the fast-selling editions and your storeroom soon is too full of them to accomodatethe latest editions.FORCED PURCHASES
Again and again I have seen this type of contract enforced: If you want my work, you must unequivocally commit yourself to buy a certain number of each edition. If there is a business slowdown or a national disaster (which might bring your art gallery to a sudden stop, 100% drop in sales, and no reserves), the artist and/or publisher continues to reap profits while the dealer stacks up losses.
The publisher then becomes a predator, like a Praying Mantis dining on its' mate. The publisher has a guaranteed income; the gallery struggles to exist. The publisher continues to drive around in the latest model Mercedes; the gallery owner has a car that is six years old. The publisher begins building a new and larger home; the gallery owner passes on the news to everyone who visits the gallery, but they're struggling to keep up the payments on their own home.
At times you may have the option that after so many months of non-sale, you have an exchange privilege. Fair enough, except that they've operated on your money for those six months. Or like an artist in Hawaii, okay, you can exchange them, but only against this group of prints and each one will cost you $200 more? No matter what field of endeavor you're in, there are always those flim-flam artists.
That's where the "exclusive" arrangement comes in well, invest in a name artist, because you're more likely to find inexperienced people and they depend upon you for all their knowledge, sort of like attending a Liberal brain-washing school (such as Berkeley). The artist's work is touted as an investment
to the collectors, and the granting of an exclusive gallery arrangement is an investment
for the buyers. Somewhere in here the word integrity
becomes more and more difficult to read.
Personally, yes, I've been on the receiving end of such deals and it has been costly and in one case, each partner of the publishing company was driving a Rolls Royce. After the company went backrupt they were still driving the same cars. Then too, publishers might decide that they don't need the artist any longer, but continue to publish and distribute his latest work without his knowledge or even his help.
(Coming: Editions, Larger Editions, Still Larger Editions, and Humungous Editions. Painter of Light, Investments? Did you say Investments?, Certificates of Authenticity, Open-end Editions, Signed Editions, Signed?? Editions, Celebrity Art, and more