Those Thrift-Store Paintings We Liked? Made in China
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 9:07 AM
Last night, the owner of Ballard Consignment showed up in the comments of yesterday's post to help solve the mystery of where the paintings by "Kim Y.S." came from:
Hi I own the Ballard consignment store. So the paintings are from photos or some other images and the family that liked these images in the past commissioned an artist In China to make these from the photos they sent Him/her. It was a while back and all the paintings are in vintage frames. I hope this helps answer your question. Joey
On Facebook, McKenzie Porritt took the pictures I'd posted and did a Google image search, which turned up that the paintings had also been in this estate sale in Shoreline (an interesting haul worth looking at in its own right).
Joey explained that he bought the paintings from the family at the estate sale, and the woman selling them said they were her father's. "They may have been magazine pictures," he wrote. "I think the one of the lady on the ground is from a movie." (Any guesses which?)
Commenters CATSPAW666 wrote,
These remind me of Justin Beckman and his commissioning a Chinese company to paint his portrait as General Grant for his show at Punch Gallery this year. [See portrait.] But the bigger question- are they still art, if, contrary to the hope that some undiscovered outsider painted them, they were, instead, painted by a professional painter of commercial art, in a factory setting? When Beckman commissioned a similar painting, and showed it in a gallery, there was a veneer of irony. But at what point do we look at the work itself, in isolation, and when is the opinion changed by who did the work, where, and when? And how, exactly, do these differ from paintings "done" by Damien Hirst, or Jeff Koons, who have factories full of employees doing the actual painting?
The paintings are obviously not what the original clerk thought: She'd said they were by a local artist now dead, and they looked like they'd been made decades ago. Joey says he's not sure when they were commissioned. But how long have folks known to commission a painting from a Chinese factory like this one? A decade?
I steer clear of conversations about whether something "is art" because they tend toward the tedious, but I'm completely interested in what kind of effect it has when you know these were made this way. I still love the painting of the man reading the letter, and my husband has suggested: Maybe it was just a great photograph. (There's a really interesting commenter in the thread who also pointed out that the piece is not as photorealistic as it at first appears, especially when you look at the man's strangely formed left arm.) Still, I love it as a painting.
The woman on the street does look like a Hollywood version of somebody down and out; I totally buy it as a movie picture, and maybe the quality of the photograph is what I was reacting against in the first place.
What do you think of them now? And what do you think of the difference CATSPAW666 brings up, the difference between some guy in Shoreline liking a photograph and having a painting made in China, versus the production lines of Damien Hirst? Which version of art commerce do you prefer?