Artwork rip-off sold here

Artwork rip-off sold here
Artwork by Ester Roi

She's an international artist and has 47,000 Facebook fans who critique her work.

Then last Friday, one of them sent her a disturbing message.

Her works had been copied and sold at an art gallery here.

The gallery claims it didn't know they had been copied and said it was planning to take action against the supplier.

On Monday, California-based Italian artist Ester Roi, 59, posted on Facebook that her works were copied and sold illegally as original oil paintings in Singapore by a gallery called Art Square.

The artist of 10 years told The New Paper that one of her followers on Facebook had notified her about this. "This is not my first experience with serious copyright infringement," she said.

Her post included screenshots from Art Square's website. It is a company based in Malaysia, which participated in the Affordable Art Fair Singapore last November.

Art Square provides paintings to Onepiece Painting, a local gallery that opened at Joo Chiat more than four years ago.

Onepiece's website had listed one of the pieces in question, pricing it at $1,500 when TNP checked on Tuesday. The listing has since been taken down.

When TNP visited Onepiece on the same day, one of the pieces in question was hung on a wall, with a sale price of $1,200. It was also indicated on the painting that it was from Indonesia.

When contacted, Onepiece director Alice Tan, 50, said she did not know the painting was a copy.

"I got this piece from Art Square," she said.

"I was told that it was an original from Indonesia. I really didn't know. This is the first time something like this has happened."

The original artwork by Roi was called Metamorphosis, but the piece at Miss Tan's gallery was named Rainbow Flow.

The original piece was donated to an auction fundraiser for the Colored Pencil Society of America in 2013, and would have been originally sold for US$1,200 (S$1,600), said Roi.

Miss Tan has since removed the painting from her gallery and said she would have to stop dealing with Art Square.

Art Square director Goh Meow Leng, 35, said she has received an e-mail from Roi, and will be removing and disposing of the paintings.

"I feel terrible," she said.

"When I found out, I immediately got my employees to check which supplier we got them from. We will not be dealing with them again."

The other piece which Roi claims was copied was originally named Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow, and was listed on the Art Square website as well, without a price. It has also since been removed.

The original was sold to a private collector in 2012 for US$4,000.


Miss Goh said her company gets paintings from the region in bulk.

Asked if she does any checks on the authenticity of the paintings before purchasing them, she said "no".

"We buy hundreds of paintings each time from galleries and sometimes factories," she said.

"There's just no way to check all of them."

Miss Goh said Art Square sold at least five paintings at the Affordable Art Fair Singapore last November.

She added that if artists inform her of their work being found on the site, she would remove them immediately.

Miss Roi said she will not pursue the matter once Art Square stops selling copies of her works and issues a public apology.

She said: "Hopefully, in future, Art Square and other companies like it will check their inventory and suppliers more carefully."

This article was first published on January 16, 2015.
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