On the tiny isle of Manhattan there is a lady name Jen Bekman. She is an art lover and she runs a tiny art gallery (there are walkin closest bigger than her gallery in Texas) in SoHo and an online store called 20×200. In the tiny village that is the art world, many think ill of her. Ms Bekman likes to say with a dry sense of humor that people think she is the devil incarnate (her own words not mine).
I have no affiliation with Ms Bekman, her gallery or 20×200. I know her socially because we both travel in the tiny village of the art world. I have no direct stake in writing this post. I simply want to have a conversation about the many websites where either original art and or reproduction prints is being made available.
I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment and see if I could reframe the argument here.
20×200 is a online store where photographs, reproductions of drawings and paintings are available for sale. The prices starts at $20 and goes up to $2000. Each of the prints are editioned and when you make a purchase, you get a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist. Now lets do some math here first before we get into the nitty gritty.
An example of a single image available on 20×200 would be as follows:
8.5 x 11″ Ed of 100 @ $20 each —-> selling through the edition would = $2000
11 x 14″ Ed of 250 @ $50 each —-> selling all 250 would = $12500
17 x 22″ Ed of 25 @ $200 each —-> selling through would = $5000
30 x 40″ Ed of 2 @ $2000 each —-> is a total of $4000
If you sold through an entire edition of ONE image, in ALL sizes available, that would be a Net Profit of $23,500 USD. Assuming the artists is getting a standard 50% split with the gallery, the artist would make $11,750 USD.
Hmmm…that math is pretty interesting right?!
Now why do the art world despise Ms Bekman? To put it simply, the detractors believe the practice of 20×200 is devaluing art in general. To get even a little uglier, 20×200 in some ways is selling “posters” of the original as the drawing and paintings are reproductions and not originals.
Is the practice of selling art at such low price point doing art, artists and the value of art a disservice? Is this a short sighted strategy focused on short term gain but eroding long term value? Honestly, I don’t know.
What I do know is this, everyone loves art and would like to live with art. 20×200 is offering an affordable solution for people to live with objects of beauty. In return, the artists who sells through the website can make some money, pay rent, have a beer, see the doctor, take a girl out on a date and maybe even make more art. For the emerging collectors, it could be an easy way to pop their collecting cheery and refine their sense on the type of art they like and love.
Now does any of that sound like a bad thing?
If your career path as an artist is representation with a blue chip gallery, be in museum collections and a major career retrospective by the age of 50, selling your work online in this particular method might not be the way to go. But that is not the career path for every artists.
Not every solution is a good fit for everyone. What I believe is that there is a place for 20×200, both in servicing the artists and people who likes art.
As to whether prints bought 20×200 is a good investment or not is hard to say. The prints come with a certificate for authenticity but they are not physically signed and numbered by the artist on verso (the reverse side) which common practice dedicates. I think this particular business model has not been around long enough to see if the work will end up in secondary market to see if there could be return on investment. However, the first rule of thumb in collecting is to buy what you love. Treating art like an investment just takes all the fun out of it. If the art brings you pleasure and happiness, maybe it doesn’t matter whether you paid $20 or $20,000, or if it is worth nothing or has appreciate in value 3 folds.
Not every option is suitable for every artist, every collector and every art lover. It is always great to have choice and options. Now if you are interested in affordable art, I would recommend two different option, B-Side and Artsicle. B-Side is run by yours truly, affordable limited edition original photographs created by me, printed by me, signed and numbered on verso by me. Artsicle is a great place to find beautiful excellent original paintings and drawings.
I hope this post was helpful in offering a different perspective. If you have a different opinion, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Please retweet this post and don’t stone me on the street for playing the devils advocate.