Protecting Art Collectors: On Art Replicas & Art Depreciation

Protect collectors. I get a couple emails a month from individuals asking me to create an exact replica of a previous work of mine. While I’m flattered that they like the piece so much, I will never recreate an exact replica of any of my works as a matter of principle. This is something I want to address because I see a lot of artists shooting themselves in the foot by destroying collector relationships, thereby devaluing their art as a whole. This is a practice that gives “artists” on the whole, a bad name.

Let me explain… Original art is an investment and I’m sort of like an investment manager. My goal is to increase the value of my paintings for my collectors over time so that the painting is worth more for them in the future than when they purchased it. If the work is proposed as a “limited edition” piece like my recent series “Meditations,” then creating multiples of it would be acceptable and fair. The value of the work will not appreciate as much as a solo original, however the collector knows that up front. If I’ve sold an original painting to a collector who bought it with the understanding that it was “one of a kind,” than to create an exact replica of that painting would be a violation of that agreement I made with my previous collector and would depreciate the value of the original that they purchased.

A perfect example of art depreciation came when I was at a dinner party over the Christmas Holiday. I was at a friends house who is an avid collector and she was showing me a piece she purchased from one of her favorite artists. She had it commissioned, it was everything she wanted with a lot of personal meaning imbued into the painting. Several months later she noticed that the artist was recreating that same commission over and over, and selling them. It was a popular piece and still “an original” but no longer one of a kind. My friend was so upset by the violation of trust and the fact that the piece she had commissioned was no longer “one of a kind” she considered throwing it out. She was livid, and her investment destroyed. Trust matters and art is about more than hanging something pretty on your wall. Art is about meaning, personalization, trust, and knowing that a painting is a slice of an artist’s life and heart hanging on the wall.

If you are calling yourself an artist please evaluate the parameters you are setting for yourself and your art. The instant gratification of another sale right now of an exact replica is tempting, I know. But this kind of impulsive behavior will not outway the the long term consequences this kind impulsivity will have on your collectors as well as your entire body of work as a whole.

The better you serve your clients, the more likely they are to trust artists and work with other artists around them. Your self-copiest behaviors are reflected in the whole community, not only in your body of work. I propose solidarity. I propose each of us increase the value of all of our works by putting aside such short sighted business practices. When we protect collectors and collector investment, we protect the art community as a whole.

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