By KEN BENSINGER and DANIEL COSTELLO
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Always wanted a Rembrandt in your rec room? It's easier than ever to have one painted to order.
A reproduction of Renoir's 'Le Moulin de la Galette,' available from Atelier America.
Dozens of companies have started selling high-quality reproductions of masterpieces in the past year, most of them on the Internet. These aren't just posters. Some use high-tech methods to print familiar paintings on textured boards or canvas; others sell works that are actually painted in oil, stroke by stroke. Prices range from $200 to more than $3,000 for framed copies of everything from da Vinci to Degas. Think van Gogh's original "Starry Night" would be too small to hang over the couch? Relax: Some fakes come sized to order.
Many reproductions are the work of overseas artists. Artsstudio.com (Artsstudio.com1), for example, sells works by members of the conservation department at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Artmall2000.com (Artmall2000.com2), based in Portland, Ore., says it uses a Shanghai gallery with 50 full-time artists and 200 contractors that crank out 2,000 copies a month. Not only is the labor cheaper, but "most U.S. artists don't want to do it because they lose their identity," says Lisa Sun, the owner of Artmall2000.
Art dealers and appraisers say most sites copy works that are in the public domain, but some are selling replicas of newer works that are still copyrighted. Besides, they say, reproductions are tacky -- and, in theory, could be passed off as real by buyers down the line.
No matter, say collectors. "I bought it for enjoyment," says Murray Cohen, a retired professor in Dryden, N.Y., who recently paid a bit less than $3,000 for fake versions of a Van Gogh, a Renoir and a pair of Monets from Atelier America Inc.'s Web site, Brushstrokesart.com (Brushstrokesart.com3). "I'd have to look far and wide to find something original that I could afford and I'm attracted to."
Write to Ken Bensinger at email@example.com and Daniel Costello at firstname.lastname@example.org
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