How often have you heard someone, or perhaps even done this yourself… approach an artist at a fine art show and asked the usual question about an original piece of art they like, “How much for this piece?” After getting the price, they or you, begin to immediately bargain for a discount? I realize that some people actually believe it’s expected, or a cultural thing, or their personal calling. This behavior, however, is not welcomed by every artist including me. This is why:

Domestic fine art is in direct competition with what I call “Discount” art. This art is created by off-shore imports that have saturated the market throughout America in most large major retail chains, sold at the gas station parking lot on the corner, mail order catalogs and on the internet. These “Decorative Wall Art” products are often very inferior reproductions or “originals” and they are cheaply made in order to be affordable for the general masses. This readily available “affordable” art that surrounds us today is confusing to the new collectors. They go to an art fair expecting the same pricing they have experienced at large retail stores full of the discount imports. Believe me, there is a huge difference between the two.

Let’s first talk a bit about “Discount Art”

Those large frames around the pictures are usually made with materials such as cardboard, plastic, or scrap wood. The images are often printed on cheap non-archival paper which is then glued directly onto an inferior grade cardboard backing. Most canvases have not been properly treated and are of questionable fiber content. Some materials and types of paint are still in question as to what was used. Yes, there is lead in bright red and other colors when done offshore. They are not made to last for more than a year, often fading, warping, peeling, cracking, bubbling or worst case scenario… leaking imported insects into your home. YUCK!! Most people don’t really complain if the work breaks down because it’s not really an investment, and it’s so cheap that they can just throw it away and get another.

This ready made art is used to appease the average income masses that just want pretty and affordable art in their homes and don’t understand or care about quality. America’s greater buying population supports these huge companies who in turn can continue to supply this inferior product. Think about it! In order to supply the demand world wide, large companies go off-shore and produce mass quantities of so called “Original” paintings by using a conveyer belt system.

Men, women and children work under sweatshop conditions for long hours a day. As one pre-outlined or printed canvas passes down a conveyer belt, a long line of workers waits their turn at an assigned task. Each worker will paint one thing on each canvas as it passes. One worker will paint a vase, another will paint leaves, and another will paint a flower and so on. At the end of the conveyer line will be hundreds of finished paintings ready for drying and shipping. Yes, each one is a hand painted Original (don’t ask how many hands painted it) and cost pennies on the dollar to make so these large framed canvases can sell for the wonderful price of only $29.95! They are just perfect to fit over that ever popular couch. And if you don’t like the blue one, there is a red one or a yellow one… Don’t worry; there are stacks of canvases to choose from. I often wonder why these large art sales are located near the airport. Is it for a quick getaway??? Hmmm?

Once this art is brought into our country, it is sold by parties that have no esthetic connection to the art and are only interested in making a profit from the sale. Of course they are also willing to barter since there is such a huge markup in value that a profit is always guaranteed. Of course the buyer feels great to have negotiated a bargain when there actually is none!

The next topic is to get an understanding about “Domestic Art”.


Marcella is a visual artist that made a leap of faith in 1995 and took an early retirement from a successful elementary teaching career of 27 years. She and her husband moved from California to the Atlanta area to continue as a full time artist. She has a formal education in the arts, and has been a creative visual artist for over 40 years.

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