A starving artist art sale is a common sales tactic most often connected to the practice of oleography, or imitation printmaking, used in sweatshops and mass-production art plants to sell imitation art. These sales pretend to represent underprivileged artists but, in fact, take advantage of cheap sweatshop labor to move inexpensive products.
Much of the art sold in starving artist art sales is produced in a process called assembly line art. Very often this is connected to sweatshop labor, and even when it is not it is part of a for-profit industry driven on the strength of flooding markets with cheap imitations of popular works of art.
A great many works of imitation art are not even fake oils but simply prints. These oleographs are layered over with clear varnishes, giving them the appearance of having been painted by simulating brush strokes. This process is extremely inexpensive and allows companies to pursue the direct sales strategies that make starving artist art sales so successful.
These sales make use of marketing conduits like TV ads and local sales to drive people to consume cheap art. With the market saturated with cheap products, consumers are unmotivated to spend more seeking out the high-quality work of individual artists who may have their own offerings.