Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Thomas Kinkade phenomenon was quite interesting. Those of us in The Trade watched it with a great deal of interest, marveling at how well they promoted his work, and the structure of the organization as they developed franchises as well as Lighthouse-owned galleries. The trouble always comes when people try to over-reach, though, and that was what I saw as the future of the organization, but I also expected it to begin a lot sooner than it did. Law suits begin when people begin to question how they were sold, the promises, the authoritarian way things are handled when they voice complaints.

Sandy owned a gallery just off of Highway #101, and that was the one I was most familiar with, as she and I did business on Lewan prints. She was sharpo and was a font of information because she had enough experience to understand what was going on, and enough independence that she did not get entirely sucked in. She was full of questions at times too, because of the way Lighthouse did business and she wanted my opinion on some things. Knowing that I had had both wholesale and retail galleries, had been a publisher as well, and had many years of experience.

Several times, as the number of prints in an Kinkade Edition climbed higher and higher, she could not figure out the total number of prints, strange as it may seem. This was due to the way they were written up, with separate numbers for everything but a series for Timbuktu, or so it seemed. They were confusing, almost like a slick lawyer's language for what should have been simplicity itself. We could not arrive at the same figure, and by now they were "limited" to eight or nine thousand per Edition. Then she had a discussion with someone in the San Jose headquarters, I guess, and asked me to give her my opinion in writing, whether the normal or usual Edition was less than a thousand.

Yes, I wrote that letter for her and how she used it I don't know, except that I got a telephone call from some jerk in San Jose who told me he was the Sales Manager there, and unless I retracted the letter, he would file a suit against me. In effect, I told him to get lost. By far, I would say that the 950 S & N, plus A/Ps, were the usual. But there is no law or system which requires it.

The figures on the Editions climbed and climbed until they were much larger than the normal "open end" editions, just ordinary unsigned prints. Is it legal, sure. It is just a lot out of the ordinary, like some of the western series of prints by artists in that field. Too many people pay the high prices for such large editions because they rationalize that these are good investments. Sometimes, if you're the first one in and the first one out. But, all in all, in spite of those Bible references, I question the integrity of a company using this combination of tactics. It speaks more of greed to me than anything else, obsfucated by Biblical hocus pocus.

There were plenty of precidents set by other artists, so they were on safe ground; it just seemed to some that there should have been more clarity or transparency to the totals. Then, there was a new issue to content with, the different sizes, the same image published in smaller sizes without signatures, an unexpected twist for most dealers and certainly, buyers of the S & N prints, feeling that once the image was produced, the original plate was destroyed and no further reproductions of that particular image would be marketed.

Again, no laws were broken that I know of, yet those who pay $500 to $1,500 for an image have the expectation that this is an exclusive image, that it will not be reproduced in other sizes in open end editions. There were Kinkade collectors who had fifteen to thirty S & N prints on their walls at home, veritable Kinkade galleries on their walls, and many of them felt let down. They were everywhere but in the 99Cent stores, it seemed.


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