Dear Mr. Berko: I have four original oil paintings by Thomas Kinkade. I bought them about 25 years ago and paid over $6,000 for each of them. I love them, and it gives me great pleasure to look at them, but because I am moving to an assisted living facility and will have no room for these paintings, I need to sell them. I thought I'd at least get my money back and was shocked when the best offers I received were between $300 and $400 each. I cried for days. How could these beautiful works of art sell for such a pittance? I recently read in the paper that a really ugly painting by David Hockney just sold for $90.3 million. Anyone will tell you that Hockney's paintings can't hold a candle to the artistic beauty of Kinkade's paintings. Is there any way you could help me get better prices for my Kinkade paintings? — MG, Vancouver, Wash.
Dear MG: Kinkade was 54 when he OD'd on an alcohol and Valium cocktail in April 2012. Known as the "Painter of Light," he was extraordinarily able to take bucolic, pastoral themes and idyllic subjects and give them the breath of life. Kinkade's work was so widely popular in the 1980s and '90s that several hundred Kinkade galleries were franchised around the nation to sell his signed prints and copies of his work. In the process, Kinkade mass-marketed so many pieces of art that some observers believe 1 in 20 American homes have a Kinkade on their walls. He was one of the few artists to become wealthy (with an estimated net worth of $70 million) while alive. His images appeared on jigsaw puzzles, greeting cards and calendars, and his works were sold by mail order at dedicated retail outlets. In fact, Kinkade masterfully employed Henry Ford's assembly line production system, using numerous studio assistants at special stations along the line so he could expedite the sales of his cavernous stockpile of work. He was so popular in Asia that mass-produced hand-painted fakes from China and Thailand were nearly as prominent in Asian homes as chopsticks.
There are figuratively millions of Kinkades on millions of walls around the world. Value is determined by desirability and availability, and because there are a prodigious number of Kinkades hanging on both sides of the globe, few are worth more than firewood, and that may include those you own — even though an immeasurable number of them are fakes and copies and I'd guess that few are original oils. I've emailed you the names of two highly respected art dealers that were given to me by a knowledgeable friend. Both should give you the straight skinny. If your Kinkades are real originals (not original copies), they may be worth your purchase price or more. I hope for the latter, and I also wish you good fortune.
The prices of Warhols, Pollocks, Kandinskys and Hockneys must be determined by an algorithm, because they have little to do with artistic or aesthetic quality. The 1972 Hockney painting you mentioned, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures)," shows Hockney in a pink blazer as he watches his lover swim toward him. In the underworld of art, $90.3 million is the highest price ever paid for a piece by a living artist. However, in the opinion of billions, "Pool" ain't worth a red cent or a pinch of snuff. I think "Pool" is an insignificant painting that is unappealing to the eye, and I suspect that Hockney sold "Pool" to a close friend for about $1,000 in 1972.
The real wow factor for the art world wasn't the quality of Hockney's talent. Rather, it was the mind-numbing $90.3 million some deep-pocketed dunderhead paid for it. Hockney's emotionless works of art use rulers, protractors, vivid colors straight from the cans of Sherwin-Williams. There's little about Hockney's work that is warm, makes you smile or you can feel with your eyes. Whoever paid $90.3 million for "Pool" is in the money laundering business, is dimwitted, is sniffing too much coke and/or has too much money.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.