Child Art Prodigy, Part 2

Four months ago I posted an entry about Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old child art prodigy whose paintings are selling for thousands of dollars. Tonight I watched a 60 Minutes piece about her, and I've got to say that it was very sad. There seems to be no evidence that Marla is painting these pieces on her own. Her parents claim that she's shy and is unable to paint with anyone but them around (no one but her parents has ever seen her do a painting from start to finish), nor is she able to paint in front of cameras. A hidden camera was installed and what this showed her producing (as her father screamed directions at her from off-camera) was a far cry from the other paintings attributed to her. It seems very likely that her father is the one either entirely creating these paintings, or finishing up what Marla starts. Just watching the father talk, you could tell that he was concealing something by his body language. It's sad that the girl has to be put through this. It'll be interesting to see if people will continue to buy 'her' paintings in light of what 60 Minutes revealed.


Posted on Wed Feb 23, 2005


So I watched the 60 minutes show on alleged child prodigy Marla and was shocked at what I saw. The only thing the poor child seems to have to do with these 'masterpieces' is to have her name assigned to them! Whilst it could be argued that she was unable to work at the best of her artistic abilities due to the camera in place- let's remind ourselves that it was hidden which means that in theory she shouldn't have been aware she was being watched. The difference in quality (if we can use that term) was astounding; the work we saw her create was nothing special and even this was under the coaching and direction from her I'm-a-failed-artist-in-my-own-right daddy.

There were too many questions surrounding this for it to remotely credible. What is most unbelievable is that Marla's paintings are still being sold since the airing of the programme. Her parents must be laughing all the way to the bank. How long for i wonder...
Posted by Nazira Hanna  in  Cairo, Egypt  on  Sun May 15, 2005  at  01:19 PM
It's so obvious that this is her Dad painting and claiming it's her. He knows that these paintings wouldn't catch nearly what it would unless people would think they where done by a 4 year old.

Daddy needs to stop exploiting his little girl!!
Posted by Dawn  in  United States  on  Fri Jul 15, 2005  at  06:23 PM
This is just a pure CON. These people who bought her work thinking it was really her should ask for their money back.

Does it really surprise anyone that 'dad' is out there orchestrating everything when her paintings are making that much ?

Just a giant scam. 60 minutes didn't promote that piece right. I thought it was all legit.
Posted by eric  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  01:25 AM
Why do people purchase art? Is the value of these works intrinsically dependant on who the artist is? How do you assign a value to a work of art? All these responses assume that the buyers' motives are investments (at least partially) and that the price tags are (at least partially) due to the fact that they were painted by a child. Investments are risky ventures and should be thoroughly analyzed, no? Did the buyers sign a contract at the time of purchase which stated that the little girl had the sole hand involved in creating these painings? What was their proof? Maybe they should have bought the work simply because they liked the art. Maybe they did. Further, if this turns/ed out to be a scandal or "hoax", who's to say that the art won't increase in value more than if it was,original to the child? She might have turned out to be a lousy artist as she grew and these were just flukes... who's to say? This whole "hoax" could be a method piece created by the girl's father as a commentary on how we value art... I mean, really, the possibilities are endless... and even this scandal out to be a "hoax" the people whe purchased the art should have no recourse. It is their own fault if they feel they were "cheated." The whle situation exemplifies that the artwork was overpriced to begin with (like an inflated stock).
Posted by Meridith  in  Boston  on  Fri Dec 09, 2005  at  07:28 PM
I found this site after hearing of the movie about this family at the Sundance festival...

Nobody will sue and it will be for the reasons scammers are rarely brought to justice: the victims have been made too big a fool of. What will happen is the father will be forced out and with a nice story to repair everybody's reputation (buyer's and family's) and also to help the art from depreciating.

Hugely controversial
This is a huge salvo in the arsenal of tradionalists. There's been "upside down syndrome" where dozens of artworks have been documented to have been displayed incorrectly and there's even been attempts at throwing away modern works by janitors. "Spot the one done by a (fill in the blank, usually a kid or animal)" experiments have been done as well. This situation is unique because it took academics in psychology, scientists if you may, to uncover what was really going on in the works: who and how they were created. For once, the inaccurate understanding couldn't be blamed on the "plebes" getting it wrong.

In short, many many people "need" for this girl to be the artist and will not believe their lying eyes.
Posted by Emily  in  Florida  on  Thu Jan 25, 2007  at  10:56 AM
My little girl is 3 and has wonderful art and can read, write, count add, subtract and much more, but to expose her to the public rather than educate her is wrong. Her art is very special to me, but she is amazing. She has a photogenic memory and has just finished a doll house project on her own. So does this make her a prodegy?
Posted by Blue  in  San Antonio, TX,  on  Wed Mar 21, 2007  at  04:30 PM
That to me is not art and should not be sold, my 3 year old paints and draws much better than that and not to mention, she started befor the age of 1 year. Sorry, to me that is not art, just a little girl who is moving her brush in circles as any child of that age can do
Posted by Blue  in  San Antonio, TX,  on  Wed Mar 21, 2007  at  04:34 PM
I would buy your cats art. HA HA, it would be something more realistic than a child not wanting to paint in public. Dont get me wrong, my 3 year old is very shy, but you put other kids and some paint and colors, you would never know she was shy. So malarky to the shy bit. Kids who love to paint will no matter where they are. They may not speak to adults other than there parents, but put them on Disney and have those kids interview her to find out the truth.
Posted by Blue  in  San Antonio, TX,  on  Wed Mar 21, 2007  at  04:38 PM
I just watched the movie about Marla and even though I have my suspicions, what did strike me is that she never once said anything like. "Oh I didn't paint that", or "my Daddy painted that, or "My daddy helped me paint this" At age four it would be very very hard to train her to always say the right thing and not give any hint that her father helped her.
Posted by Gary H.  on  Mon Jun 02, 2008  at  11:08 AM
Regarding Marla not saying that her dad didn't paint them or something like that, my 3 year old daughter frequently says "I did it all myself" or claims that she's done things when she's merely helped or barked directions at one of us. Kids that age have an interesting idea of what doing things themselves means and it's not always accurate.

I have no idea if Marla is doing these paintings by herself or not. I do think it's very suspicious that she can't produce well with a hidden camera and that her dad is an unsuccessful artist.

To everyone who wonders why it should matter to the buyers, it's because people buy art for a variety of reasons. If they bought it just because they liked it, that's probably not going to bother them in the least. Some bought her art as an investment, though, and fraud will lower the value of the work. Others bought it as a conversation could go either way now depending on the person. The point is that when you buy something, whatever your reason for buying it, you should get what you think you're getting. Anything less than that is fraud and it's illegal for a reason.
Posted by Sheri  on  Thu Jan 14, 2010  at  09:28 PM
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