Art Of Selling Kitsch

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Just how long the populist movement can sustain its economic growth is a matter for debate. Sales have increased for three years running, with Kinkade's popularity the driving force. But Kinkade has yet to make a significant dent on the East Coast, and his harshest critics may be on Wall Street. While sales have held steady, Media Arts' stock price dropped more than 60% since the beginning of the year over concerns that interest may have peaked. Says Shawn Milne, an analyst at Hambrecht & Quist: "This thing came raging out of the gate, and they're not crushing numbers anymore, so there's always the worry that it's just Beanie Babies again."

Ultimately, it may be necessary for the artists to hone their business rather than their artistic skills if they want to sustain their industry. The problem, says Steve Hanks, another top-selling artist, is that too few art schools teach their students how to earn a living at their craft. "I used to think if the art was good it would sell itself," Hanks says. "Then I worked and starved for 15 years, and I realized that today's art business is about selling your name." Wyland started marketing his work in junior high school and never let up. "The art snobs frown on any marketing or business," he says, "but the old masters weren't successful until they were dead. I didn't want to wait that long."

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