Taking Stock: Value of Kinkade's art to stay in beholder's eye

Published: May 13, 2012
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Dear Mr. Berko: In 1993, my husband and I purchased two Thomas Kinkade scenic paintings for $28,000. We think they are beautiful and still marvel at the colors and scenes. We are cleaning house, getting rid of lots kitsch and clutter that we accumulated during our past 50 years of marriage and travel and were surprised to learn that the buyer placed such a low value on our Kinkades. While we do not wish to sell them, we were astonished to discover that a Kinkade is virtually worthless and we were offered $1,600. We have 7 other pieces of art that have appreciated significantly in value and can't imagine why a Kinkade would be almost worthless. And by the way, the only piece of art we are selling is a Picasso we inherited in 1986, only because it is so hideously ugly. In fact, we hide it in a guest bathroom. Can you tell us why Thomas Kinkade has lost its value? He recently passed away, and it seems that his work should be worth more.

HG in Rochester, Minn.

Dear HG: I think Thomas Kinkade, known as the Painter of Light, was a genius. He enthralled millions of Americans with nostalgic, Norman Rockwell notions of bucolic, rural life when things were exactly as they seemed to be and all things appeared untarnished, uncomplicated and wholesome. Rockwell painted people, while Kinkade painted Arcadian cottages, meandering streams, pastoral villages and enchanting garden paths. Aficionados like you probably hear the harmony and melody in his colors and feel the poetry of his images. Personally, I can't stand his work, though I am in awe of his skill and technique. And I hold Kinkade in significantly higher esteem than Christos, who wraps cities in pink and plastic slime, or a guy called Warhol who copied Campbell's Soup cans and dollar bills. Inarguably, visual art is defined as the representation of a subject in the form of a painting, a sculpture or a composition from materials such as rock, metal, glass, plastic, etc. However, the prices paid are determined by the collective, subjective opinions of a confluence of tittering, high-strung poseurs with unctuous personalities who compete for approval and social standing among the glitterati of the art world. The importance of their opinions is a function of the esteem in which the poseur is held by the effete gadflies who write about the artists, the galleries that boast their work and the fawning wannabes who suck up to all of them. However, the final imprimatur derives from the colony of the uber-wealthy whose status among themselves is measured by the millions with which they're willing to outspend each other for a de Kooning, a Wyeth or a Dali. Frankly, it's quite similar to the stock market.