Friday, March 16, 2007

The Franchise

Kate Taylor had more in yesterday's New York Sun on Thomas Kinkade's deal with Lionsgate films, mentioned earlier here. She explains:

"Mr. Kinkade is a complete outsider to the mainstream art world, as defined by museums and New York galleries .... But Mr. Kinkade has his own, large pool of admirers. His twee, cozy images adorn the walls of millions of American homes, as well as appearing on products like Hallmark Christmas cards and ornaments and Spode dinnerware. He manages a national franchise of galleries that sell his paintings ––or, rather, digital reproductions of them — and his work has inspired two housing developments, including a cluster of luxury lakefront homes in Coeur d'Alène, Idaho, designed to resemble his painting 'Beyond Autumn Gate.'"

Lionsgate's production chief says, "We see Thomas Kinkade as a franchise in the film business just like he is in the art world." He adds that Kinkade is "probably the most successful artist of all time. ... For us, it's all about reaching an audience, and Thomas Kinkade has a vast audience."

Before this deal, Kinkdade had on his own already expanded well beyond paintings:

"Thomas Kinkade Media's output also includes books, direct to-DVD productions, ... and, on the Web, a soon-to-be-launched Thomas Kinkade Network. The network, which Mr. Byrne said will be up in the next six months, will offer people 'a whole variety of lifestyle and entertainment information, that spans from artwork to cooking, to decorating your home, to interviews with celebrities ....'"

Taylor adds that Kinkade "may paint worlds of sweetness and light, but his own life and business aren't always so wonderful":

"In the last year, at least 10 former owners of 'signature' galleries, which are licensed to sell only Mr. Kinkade's work, have accused Mr. Kinkade of defrauding them, using his Christianity to persuade them to invest in moneylosing businesses. In August, the Los Angeles Times reported that the FBI was investigating the allegations and that former dealers had been contacted for documentation about their relationship with Mr. Kinkade. In one case, an arbitration panel ordered Mr. Kinkade's company to pay $860,000 to two former dealers in Virginia."