I ordered a painting from 1st Art Gallery. I picked them because their website promised “museum quality” pictures that the original artist would be happy to endorse. There were also a large number of testimonials from happy customers. For various reasons, I could not inspect the painting immediately and it was over 7 days later before I looked at it. I was horrified when I did see it, as the whole painting was clearly painted to a standard well below the original. I contacted them immediately, explaining that I had only just seen the painting for the first time and was very dissatisfied. Their response was that they thought my expectations were high for the cost. I wrote back saying, yes, my expectations were high, but only as high as the wording on their website led me to have. This turned out to be a big mistake on my part. These people do not like to be challenged, and relations (via emails) rapidly deteriorated.The representative from the company scattered his emails to me with scorn, insults and threats. Some examples (all direct quotes): “Are you really surprised that the original which is worth MILLIONS is painted better than a copy that had cost only a few hundred dollars?” “We had experience servicing hundreds of people a month and I can easy recognize when someone has a personality disorder and / or is being unreasonable. Keep in mind that we have all your personal information and that posting lies on the internet is illegal, you might find yourself with a lawsuit for liable (sic), and your own name posted on the internet with warning for people not to deal with you.” “To say that you were “”deceived”” is preposterous, we will post this image online along with your name and a copy of the lawsuit that we will file against you. Any person with an ounce of a brain will see that you’re insane.” There is quite a lot more in the same vein, but that’s enough for a flavor. They have indeed posted the image online – they really do seem to be proud of it, which is worrying. They are incapable of distinguishing a good painting from a poor one – not healthy given their line of business. The painting is Brueghel’s Hunters in the Snow. The whole point about Brueghel and the Northern Renaissance is the detail. At any point you should be able to look at the painting and take pleasure in the realistic depiction of what is there. Without that detail, it’s like a car with a flat battery: superficially it seems ok, but it’s lifeless and useless. I accept that at the level of detail shown on their website it is impossible to tell the difference. But that completely misses the point, because in the actual ‘reproduction’ canvas there is really no more detail than you can see here – and it’s a big canvas. It’s a disaster: at least two levels of quality below ‘museum quality’. I still have their original so I can provide pictures at any level of detail if anyone wants to see more. This is clearly not painted to museum standard, or any standard that Brueghel would have allowed out of his studio (it would have destroyed his reputation at a stroke). The fact that 1st Art Gallery think that this painting is good enough to prove their claims of quality makes them look very foolish and ignorant. And the fact that they rely on a gallery of paintings that you can’t enlarge to illustrate their ‘quality’ only underlines how superficial and dishonest they are. But go back to the first statement quoted from them: “Are you really surprised that the original which is worth MILLIONS is painted better than a copy that had cost only a few hundred dollars?” This says it all in identifying what these people are like. Firstly, it is saying “we don’t, never have, and never will produce paintings of top (i.e. museum) quality.” Therefore this claim on the website is a lie. Secondly, it is saying “we view you with contempt for expecting that level of quality”. Thirdly, it shows a pathetic lack of understanding of what actually gives a work of art value. These people do not care about art at all – only about fleecing as many customers as they can. The only correct response to their indignant question is “Well, yes, I am surprised, because this is exactly what your website promised.” 1st Art Gallery have said to me (twice) that I can send the painting back – at my expense – for improvements until I am happy with it. But since I missed the 7-day limit for refunds, they were absolutely rigid that there is no chance of getting my money back – despite the fact that I couldn’t see the painting in time. They completely fail (or refuse) to see my point that this painting is so far from the standard I expected that it would require complete repainting of everything except the sky. I cannot therefore see any realistic chance of this painting ever being brought up to an acceptable standard, especially in view of their scorn that I should expect better, and their stated belief that this painting is fine anyway. So I have decided to cut my losses, accept that I have lost more than $700 to these cheats, and find someone who will give me the quality I need. I have waited quite a long time to post this, because I wanted to prove to myself that their scornful jibe was false, and that I could get a faithful copy of this old master at an affordable price. It did cost me more, and I did need to wait longer, but it was still well within my budget, and definitely worth the wait. I am totally delighted with it, just as I was disgusted by the apology for art that I was sent by 1st Art. I won’t tell you here who I got it from (you will need to do some homework) because I confidently suspect that these people would turn very nasty towards that supplier (they are clearly that type), and that would not be fair. Let me give 1st Art Gallery their due: they are no worse in their advertising claims than a number of other sharks offering Chinese painted oils at absurdly low prices for “museum quality”. The point is that this is all a scam at this level. There are many companies operating at this level, relying on the fact that most customers don’t notice or don’t mind the discrepancies between what they are promised and what they get. 1st Art Gallery are probably no worse than the other frauds posting false promises of high quality. But where they are spectacularly bad is in their reaction to criticism, which is hysterical and absurdly aggressive. In summary, these people make cynically false claims about their products, and if challenged will treat you with contempt, or worse. Everyone who has used them has been scammed, because they never deliver the quality they claim, even if the vast majority of customers don’t notice or don’t care. When thinking about buying an oil painting, bear in mind that what you put on your wall says a lot about you. If you get one of these people’s paintings, I can only think of two things you may be saying. One is: “I’m a sucker. I know nothing about art, but I think that uncritically hanging an oil painting on my wall makes me look good”. Believe me, in the eye of anyone who knows anything about art, you just look ridiculous. The other thing you may be saying is “I know this isn’t museum quality, but it’s cheap, and I’m a cheap third-rate person, so third-rate is good enough for me.” I can’t think of any other possible interpretation. I am amazed that there are so few negative posts about these people – I think that they must be manipulating the ratios of good to bad reviews somehow – but the bad reviews all have the same theme: a complaint about poor quality met with contempt, outrageous aggression, insults and threats. The company tries wherever it can to claim that these reviews were posted by competitors. They can’t do that in my case (I have both the emails and the painting, and can prove everything I say), and given my experiences, I don’t believe the ‘competitor’ slurs – these other descriptions match perfectly to mine. Despite the overwhelming ratio of good reviews on Trustpilot, these people are bad news. They are best avoided. And I now know that you can find much better out there. .
This review (St Art Gallery Review) was originally published at Holy Smoke !.
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