Ripped-off artworks on display at Penticton’s Leir House

The Rip-off Artists, a South Okanagan group named for their annual pilfering of a famous dead artist’s masterpiece, join forces every summer to interpret a masterpiece by a famous artist in their own way and favourite media, learning new skills and having fun along the way.

Submitted photo Displaying no concern for retribution

They’ve been ripping off well-know artists for years; so long that they are now staging an exhibition of their particular brand of art theft at Leir House next week.

The Rip-off Artists, a South Okanagan group named for their annual pilfering of a famous dead artist’s masterpiece, join forces every summer to interpret a masterpiece by a famous artist in their own way and favourite media, learning new skills and having fun along the way.

Encaustic artist Thea Haubrich, one of the founding members of the group, said they wanted to mark the fifth anniversary of the group in a special way.

“We wanted to do that with an exhibition bringing all the works together,” she said. The show starts at Leir House on May 12, running until June 23, then the artists will have a couple of weeks before this year’s rip-off event, which takes place from July 4 to 9.

The 10 members, headed by ringleader, fibre artist Terry Irvine, each work in their own medium. Along with Haubrich, the members of the gang are quilter and painter Enid Baker, quilter Dianne Birnie 3-D artist Kurt Hutterli, weaver Barbara Levant, woodworker Leo Pedersen, collage artist Marion Trimble, fine artist JoAnn Turner and digital photographer Russell Work.

The first year, the artists stole a landscape from Van Gogh. The following year, a portrait by Gustav Klimt was pilfered. Next, a tulip by Georgia O’Keefe was deftly plucked. Last year the group hoisted one of Lawren Harris’s mountain vistas. Each year the popularity of this larcenous group has grown, drawing a large following of art lovers.

The Rip-off Artists Retrospective Show is the first exhibit of the entire body of work produced by the group. Haubrich estimates there will be about 35 to 40 artworks displayed in Leir House, representing the range of media the artists work in.

Gaining insight into the artist and the chosen work is an education for the public as well as the participating artists, according to Haubrich. The group’s creations make the point that copying an artist’s work is actually the ultimate compliment to the original artist.

“It’s exhilarating, you work so close to the piece … you get to know the artist,” she said. “We don’t want to do a bad job of it. We want to honour their work.”

Haubrich said the group has already decided on the subject for this year’s art theft: Grant Wood’s classic painting, American Gothic. But since the painting, depicting a stoic farmer and wife has been parodied, satirized and, well, ripped off thousands of times already, they are adding an extra twist.

“This year it will be a double Rip-off, as we will be using Grant Wood’s painting and each of us artists will chose another famous artist and create American Gothic in that style,” said Haubrich.  “So we would have perhaps a Van Gogh, Picasso or Modigliani American Gothic.”

Haubrich, who lived in Japan for five years, is already planning a piece done in the style of a japanese woodblock print, with a geisha and samurai in place of the farming couple.

“There are lots of different approaches from other artists and in different media. Not everyone is painting,” she said. “We have installation artists, and artists that paint on furniture, weavers, quilter … everybody will have their own approach, it will be quite exciting.”

Visitors are welcome to cop a peek at the show hosted by Leir House, 220 Manor Park Ave. in Penticton. The works will be on display May 12 to June 23, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. An opening reception will be held May 12 from 7 to 9 p.m.

For more information or to view the Rip-off Artists and their annual challenges online, visit their website at


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