Is Your Thomas Kinkade Painting About to Increase in Value?

thomas kinkade artTypically, when a well-known artist dies, the works he leaves behind increase in value -- after all, there obviously will be no more additions to their oeuvre. So anyone who has a Thomas Kinkade hanging over the sofa might well be wondering: Is it worth more today than it was before the artist died on Friday at age 54?

Kinkade, the American artist who promoted himself with the registered trademark "Painter of Light," was unique among contemporary painters: He established what the the Associated Press rightly described as a commercial art empire, encompassing "franchised galleries, reproduced artwork and spin-off products said to fetch at their peak some $100 million annually and [to] adorn roughly 10 million homes." In addition to hand-signed lithographs and canvas prints, licensed Kinkade products include "books and posters, calendars, magazine covers, cards, collector plates and figurines" -- even jigsaw puzzles.

So what will be the financial fate of all that stuff, now that Kinkade's career is at an end?

Few Originals, and Even Less Artistic Merit

"While he was probably the most financially successful artist in the United States, the resale value of his works [is] very, very limited," says Deborah Solon, an art historian who once participated in a symposium on Kinkade at New York University. "Most of what he did was in multiples; there are very few originals. Most were serigraphs or lithographs, and then sometimes he or somebody else would maybe hand color them, he would occasionally add a stroke or two, or he might sign them, but they were limited editions. Anything that's a print, that is done in multiple editions, inherently has less value than an original piece of art."

Based on that, there's reason to doubt that prices for Kinkade's art will follow the familiar pattern. In addition, there are reports of "unpublished work," to be released at later dates.

Nevertheless, Kinkade's work has certainly been selling more swiftly in the short term. According to the AP, a painting that "sat unsold for years" in the gallery where Kinkade's "career first took off" -- with a $110,000 price tag -- was bought for $150,000 after the artist died. (The owner of the painting, which was being sold on consignment, called the gallery after the news broke to ask for the price to be raised.) "Other galleries across the country that specialize in Kinkade's work are reporting a similar surge in sales," the AP reports: Limited edition reproductions with Kinkade's original signature are "in high demand," fetching prices from $8,000 to $15,000. (Regular Kinkade prints usually retail for between $40 and $200.)

"It's certainly possible that the market for some of his actual paintings could go up," Solon acknowledged. But the possibility, even the likelihood, remains that these buyers are making a long-term mistake if they view their purchases as investments.

Gallery: Thomas Kinkade Paintings
Kincaid

For although Kinkade's work was undeniably popular, and brought him great financial success, it has never commanded the respect of critics or art historians, who tend to view it as saccharine, vulgar and meaningless -- an example of the kind of production that Clement Greenberg once termed kitsch. ("Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas," Greenberg wrote in 1939. "Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. ... Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money -- not even their time.")

But if Kinkade's idealized, luminous representations of cottages, churches and pastoral landscapes were dismissed by the art world cognoscenti, the phenomenon of the artist himself was not, as the NYU panel discussion in which Solon participated suggests. "It was very spirited," she recalls, "because we were talking about whether or not this is a guy who belongs in the canon of art history." Some scholars have taken this possibility seriously: In 2004, the gallery at California State University, Fullerton, mounted a huge exhibition of Kinkade's paintings called Heaven on Earth, as a kind of conceptual project.

Still, the show seems like a one-time novelty, predicated on an almost ironic appreciation of Kinkade's contribution to American art. At the moment, posterity seems likely to vindicate the judgment offered by essayist A.S. Hamrah in the literary magazine The Baffler: "The idea that these reproductions, gobbed with points of light, are a good investment isn't any different than the idea that flipping gated, golf-coursed mansions is the way to get rich."

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54 Comments

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barb.ladere

I have a Graceland Thomas kinkade painting I would like to know what its worth

January 31 2014 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Don Johnson

The Bernie Madoff of the art world, the Spinal Tap of artists.
My father bought a painting from one of his franchise stores in a mall.
Eh.
I understand buying assembly line paintings for escapism at the price tag of a couple hundred dollars but upwards of eighteen hundred dollars?
His opportunistic talent rivaled his artistic one.

September 25 2012 at 2:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Man

how much for an ariginal tomas kinkade soldier paintting

July 09 2012 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Man

how much is a tomas selling for of the soldier

July 09 2012 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tanya Edwards

Rest in peace Mr. Kinkade.

May 11 2012 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anna

I also do not buy Thomas Kinkade paintings as an investment and I am glad that those paintings were widely available to the public. I cannot afford to buy original paintings by popular artists. I love the landscape and cottages paintings the most. They are beautiful to look at and you can feel the serenity when you look at one of his works. R.I.P. I am sorry his life wasn't as peaceful as many of his works of art.

April 19 2012 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anna

I personallly love the artwork Thomas Kinkade made. I don't care about it's resale value either. I especially love the cottages and landscapes. They are beautiful to look at.

April 19 2012 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
malibuchc

Why is it wrong for an artist to have good business sense? I don't get the critics but Kudos to Thom!

April 13 2012 at 10:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mark

He is and will always be the beanie baby of artists

April 12 2012 at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan Rettaliata

His art represented a comfortable reverie that I could fold myself into when reality sucked. Like a summer that I spent in chemotherapy. His puzzles were comfort food for the soul. I'm sure I'm not the only one who found comfort in his works. The power of one's art isn't always about the investment value. There is enough "reality" out there. And isn't art appreciation subjective. To each his own.

April 12 2012 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply