Source AP ©

Online gallery exhibits paintings of small children

Freddie Linsky's paintings look like they could have been created by a 2-year old.

But in Freddie's case, he actually is just 2.

His works aren't just hanging on the refrigerator, though.

Freddie's mother, Estelle Lovatt, posted her son's paintings on an art gallery Web site that lets anyone exhibit and sell their works online. As an art critic and art teacher, she said she thought they were above average and wanted to see what others thought.

She said Freddie sold his first painting last year and a gallery in Berlin expressed interest - though she won't reveal its name. Neither the buyer nor the gallery knew Freddie's age.

British newspapers caught on to Freddie's talent earlier this week, a year after his mother said she sold his painting.

Freddie's profile on the gallery's site doesn't state his age, saying only that "the artist's whole life has been dedicated to his art" and that he is an art critic and a familiar face at press viewings at major galleries and exhibitions in London.

Both of those facts are true, Lovatt said, just not exactly as they seem. Lovatt is an art critic, freelance radio journalist and part-time teacher at an art school and has taken Freddie with her to galleries and exhibitions. He has indeed been painting almost his entire life - starting with ketchup on his high chair tray.

The gallery, Saatchi Online, is open to artists anywhere. The site is free and does not charge a commission.

The gallery generates $100 million (68 million EUR) in sales per year and receives more 50 million hits per day, said Annabel Fallon, a spokeswoman for the gallery. She said Freddie was probably the youngest of the 75,000 artists displayed on the site.

Lovatt said her reason for posting Freddie's paintings was simple: she thought her son was talented and wanted to see what others thought.

"I'm an art critic and I'm looking at one or two finished pieces, and I noticed that some of them actually looked quite good and I thought, 'Am I just being a biased mother or is there something there?"' she said.

She said she had fun embellishing the captions for paintings and expected people to see through what she wrote. The painting that sold for 20 pounds (US$40, 27 EUR), "The Best Loved Elephant," says: "The striking use of oriental calligraphy has the kanji like characters stampeding from the page, showing the new ascent of the East. One of the artist's most experimental works."

But the intent was not to trick anyone, she said.

"Nobody was duped," she said. "The purchaser bought it for 20 pounds. That's cheaper than a poster and it amounts to costs of his paints."

She added that she didn't think Freddie's age was relevant.

"I thought people might not look at it as a piece of potential art, but look at it as children's art," she said. "With abstract art, most people turn and say 'Oh my child could do that.' In this case he has."

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