Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stealing from artists (Hook Gallery)

Andrea Migiano-Lavery
STOLEN! This is a painting by artist Andrea Migiano-Lavery. It sold quite a while ago off of her Etsy page, but it's image remains on the internet, ripe for the plucking by anyone with no conscience and some "screen grab" know-how.

Here (below) is how Migiano-Lavery's art looked on Hook Gallery's upcoming events calendar. Looks nice, doesn't it?  Hook Gallery scheduled her painting for one of their successful  "Painting Parties". Migiano-Lavery's art was slated for July 29 and July 30. Does Migiano-Lavery know anyone at Hook Gallery? Had she ever  heard of them? Did Hook Gallery ask Migiano-Lavery's permission to use her chicadee painting for their own gain? No, no and no.

Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

Painting Parties are a thing now. They are organized events where people convene to paint the same picture "together". What is usual at painting parties is that art supplies and some sort of template to follow is provided along with an instructor for guidance. Alcohol often factors in too and everyone has a great time.

According to what I have been able to piece together Hook Gallery wasn't doing so great until they hooked up (pun intended) with Groupon. A Groupon rep named Megan suggested "Painting Parties" and Hook's business really picked up! So much so that they had to hire staff and move to a larger space (according to the article below).

(Here is a snippet click to enlarge)

According to this article Hook Gallery has sold 2,013 Groupons for painting classes. That's a lot of people!

If one researches other painting party businesses you are going to find a lot of "Starry Night" paintings by Van Gogh* and some really nice amateur art that the customers paint from.
But, not Hook Gallery! They mostly used first-rate professional art. After they stole art that they uploaded for advertising on thier own website and Facebook page (pretending that it was theirs) they would provide the same pirated images to their entire "class" as reference for everyone to copy! Win-Win! Right? Yes, for everyone except for the person who actually did the original painting.

So why didn't Hook Gallery use copyright-free art? What about asking their own staff "art instructor" to provide an original template? Why didn't they ask permission of the artists that they stole from? The obvious answer is that customers would find professional paintings much more enticing than what the Hook Gallery instructor could provide. (They would have used that person's art if it was as nice as what they stole). The customers certainly would want to paint something pretty!

Recently Hook Gallery’s illegal actions were discovered and  exposed (on their Facebook page). Under pressure Hook Gallery took down all the art images that they used to promote their art instruction business. Their Facebook page had dozens of images of stolen art. Between their Facebook page and their website practically every image was painted by living accomplished (in many cases award-winning) professional  artists.

Let's cover what we know:

Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

For May 20 and May 21 they would be painting a lemon

Below is the link to the art on the internet. Original artist, Karen O'Neil

Karen O'Neil


Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

For May 27 and May 28 they would be painting an abstract

Below is the link to the art on the internet. Original artist, Britt Bass Turner

Britt Bass Turner (abstract) http://www.brittbass.com/prints/he-i-print

Britt Bass Turner


Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

For June 3 and June 4 they would be painting a figure and water scene

Below is a link to the art on the internet. Original artist Tom Sierak

Tom Sierak (feet over water) Hook Gallery actually used this image as their Facebook cover page until recently http://happy-dreamer-niki.tumblr.com/post/56874493824/tom-sierak

Tom Sierak


Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

For June17 and June 18 they would be painting a set of stacked cups

Screenshot of Hook Gallery's inside Calendar page before they removed it

Below is a link to the art on the internet. Artist Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers

Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers (stacked cups) http://crehfeld.blogspot.com/2011/05/study-for-six-cups.html

Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers


Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it

For July 8 and July 9  they would be painting a figure with a pillow

Below is a link to the art on the internet. Artist Clare Elsaesser

Clare Elsaesser

Screenshot of Hook Gallery's Calendar page before they removed it
(And now we conclude with our now familiar chickadee), 

For July 29 and July 30 they would be painting a chickadee

Below is a link to the art on the internet. Artist Migiano-Lavery

This is just the tip of the iceberg. They did this for a year! Perhaps they were able to get away with this for so long because the demographic that they were appealing to are the uninitiated, people who (up until they signed up for a party) had little exposure to painting.

Because they have removed all the pretty art that they had for advertising they are now left with kind of a bereft desert, more indicative of what they have to offer.  Here is how their website schedule looks now (empty):

Read the most recent one star reviews on Hook Gallery's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hookkcmo?sk=reviews (for as long as it stays up) Go to the tab that reads MOST RECENT. There are miles of testimonials about other artists who were victimized there. Here are some snippets (below).
(click to enlarge):


What are the odds that a person who owns a business (an art business, no less) would have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of copyright law? None?  These people knew exactly what they were doing. They were making money and having a great time. All of it at other's expense. 

Website: http://hookgallery.com

So, Hook Gallery claims that they didn't understand copyright (riigggghht). Here's a Q&A to help them and anyone else who is interested become more educated about it.

Q. Don't artists learn to paint by copying paintings?

A. Yes. Artists have learned by copying Master paintings for generations.

Here are the rules about it:

1. The artist you copy must be long deceased. (*That's precisely why Starry Night by Van Gogh is popular)

2. If the artist is alive, you must get their permission to use their work for commercial means.

Q. Exactly what is wrong with painting from a painting done by a contemporary living artist?

A. An artist who paints an original painting automatically owns the copyright to it. There are sometimes misconceptions about this. Artists are not required to "register" their work anywhere. They don't have to march into some patent office somewhere and "apply" for copyright. Copyright law is very clear about this. The artist did it, it is a tangible item and the copyright belongs to the originator. So, see the chickadee at the top of the page (and the rest of the art here for that matter)? You can not use it without the artist's permission!**

The copyright holder has the exclusive right to decide how their work is distributed. It’s the basis of why the music and movie industries have been so tenacious with their pursuit of “unauthorized use”. Copyright law is not different for visual artists.

Q. But Wait. How about learning in a class?

A. Again,  Section 106(2) of the copyright act gives exclusive rights to the copyright holder. Section 107 does create a fair use exemption for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, but that exception does not extend to distribution in any commercial endeavor. (i.e.: advertising/promotion and "classes" where permission was not granted and a fee was paid)!

In conclusion, I am reaching out to ask Groupon to request that they discontinue their relationship with Hook Gallery. It is unconscionable that the lion's share of their Groupon “deals” were accomplished on the backs of hard working artists, most of whom have made huge sacrifices in their lives to become professional artists. This is no joke. This is no light-hearted matter. Hook Gallery and Groupon by association are thieves. Don't steal from artists and then say you "didn't know". We aren't buying it.

Dave Castillo

P.S. **All of the images I have used in this communication fall under the copyright category of "fair use" (because this entire post is "criticism)".

1 comment:

  1. As a photographer, I have had myvwork stolen via internet svreen grabs. Thank you for your succinctly written post. I would like to post a linkback to this on my professional and personal FB pages to further educate others.