Save for the very long term, I expect my art subscription service's only permanent presence will be online, and initially it would exist solely as a website to be encountered by users browsing at home or at work (eventually a portable device program could be developed for digital art). The visual and interactive experience will be somewhat casual (like looking at pretty photographs online) and also with an eye to buying (though nothing like most online stores, which are so over-saturated with information and distractions).
The information on the site would consist of images of the artworks provided by the artists, biographic information about the artists and curators that they would provide, descriptions of the artists' works by the curators who selected them, and a standard online purchasing form like those available through services like PayPal.
On the administrative side the site will require monthly updates with the new artwork sent out in the subscription, updates with news about other projects the artists and curators involved are working on, and any scheduled events to do with the subscribers. Part of the subscription service will include access to a private blog and social network for members, which will foster a sense of involvement and community among what may be a very geographically dispersed clientele, which will also give them a place to communicate with the participating artists and curators. Administering this online discussion space will mean more frequent participation for all involved.
The service needs a name, logo, letterhead/envelope/business card, website and blog interface. I'll also need to choose a specific web-based store application, or perhaps request that checks be sent directly to an office or bank. There will also have to be some research to find a shipping service that can guarantee safe delivery of sometimes fragile objects. When, occasionally, subscribers are brought together for a special event, suitable spaces will have to be found.
I will design the logo, printed matter and web site, the blog interface will be existing blogging software, the payment system will already exist and simply be integrated into a page of the website I design.
The artists and curators will provide their biographical information, the curators will be asked to write 400 to 600 words on each artist they choose. The artists will be given a pre-determined period of time to create their works, which will be created specifically for the subscription service rather than selected from their pre-existing body of work.
The biggest problem several of the people I spoke to raised was the idea of creating something more involved and personal than just a subscription service whereby an object arrives in the mail every month. Getting subscribers to participate, engage and produce their own content in the form of questions for artists and curators, feedback for administrators, suggestions and ideas for fellow members and the like will be especially important and contingent to a large degree on the blog design.
Dream employees: Several gallery directors and curators from organizations with different audiences and backgrounds would be ideal for this service to give it a comprehensive outlook that covers both well-known artists and newcomers. I'd choose a combination of very established figures like Larry Gagosian, owner of the international Gagosian gallery chain, and curators more attuned to emerging artists like Juan Puntes of White Box Gallery and Fionn Meade, the curator at SculptureCenter.
Dream employers: This is the kind of service that could very easily be licensed to a large gallery looking to diversify its income from just major sales into smaller and steadier income, or that a larger online store might want to have as a specialized members section. In terms of the latter, I especially think such a subscription service could be integrated into sites like Etsy or ThumbtackPress, offering users a more engaging and exciting way of buying and collecting art. An example of the former would be Pace Wildenstein, which operates three galleries in New York and represents some very famous artists, but relies heavily on sales of very expensive works.
Dream artists and designers: Part of the challenge of this website will be to create a design that is at once clear and clean yet not too stilted or visually uninspiring. Though it's much busier than I would want the subscription service to be, the homepage of Deitch Projects, designed by Agnieszka Gasparska is one of the best and most interesting of any gallery I've ever come across. Two artists whose work I'd love to have included and whose visual style might influence the visual style of the website are Jonathan Schipper (a sculptor and installation artist whose work is very high tech, slick and violent) and Swoon (a street artist whose posters and installations tend to be very organic and Utopian).
In the beginning, the project will be very New York-centric, providing subscribers with relatively inexpensive original artworks by local artists selected by local curators and gallerists, all of whom will be compensated for their work, with a percentage of the fee going to fund the subscription service’s operating costs. Eventually the project can expand to cover other urban areas by creating a network of participating galleries and curators finding artists in cities throughout the country and further. Further down the road, still, the project could offer specific genres of subscription services to cater to collectors’ tastes (ie. photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, figurative, abstract, video, etc.). The appeal of this art subscription service is that for young art enthusiasts and curators starting out, the fee is much more affordable than buying directly from galleries and a rotating set of guest curators ensures the caliber of participating artists remains high. For artists joining the program it offers exposure to collectors just starting out, who may very well continue to purchase the artists’ work as their career evolves. Finally, the simplicity of the system offers a clear and approachable way into the art market for artists and collectors who may be unsure where to begin.
Relevant comparisons and contexts:
- More commercial and established galleries provide a less structured, less accessible, but perhaps more financially secure system whereby patrons can buy art by approved artists at high prices and be assured of its value by the current art market.
- With the middle levels of the art market increasingly disappearing as the dwindling middle-class loses its financial ability to purchase art, more and more the only options are very expensive commercial galleries or small, eclectic and unpredictable venues.
- How can people without thousands of dollars of disposable income participate in a luxury-driven art market and still be sure of the viability of their investments and happy with their choices and purchases?
- Galleries, even some more high-end ones, increasingly offer high-quality prints and limited edition replicas of works by their artists at a fraction the price of original pieces.
- Invisible-Exports, a gallery on the Lower East Side, created the Artist of the Month Club subscription service whereby aspiring collectors pay a flat rate at the beginning of the year and receive an original artwork every month.
- Threadless, a store where designers post and sell their T-shirt designs, offers a 12 Month Tee Club, through which subscribers receive one new designer T-shirt every month.
- Art fairs where expensive and more affordable artworks are often on display as special promotions and to generate visibility.
- Art magazines and bogs that increasingly cover even the most obscure section of the contemporary art scene, making it less necessary to be an active collector and participant in the community to know what's happening.
- Galleries and websites that sell bad art at low prices without making any attempt to develop the tastes of their clients.
- Due to the nature of such programs, it could operate without connection to a gallery or display space, although an office where works are stored and sales, curation are coordinated would quickly become essential.
- Most business and information would take place and exist online, so a clear, attractive, dynamic and secure website would be essential, one in which subscribers could have some input or even a discussion forum.
- Printed materials such as a pamphlet or a catalog of the previous year's works would become important for archiving purposes and could help with sales in person and when approaching curators and artists.
- An electronic newsletter to keep subscribers up to date with artists, related exhibitions and relevant news.
10 pleasures, values and skills (in no particular order): bright and saturated colors, elegant or gritty black and white, figuration, postmodernism, photography, collages, architecture, Photoshop, urban design, cultural criticism.
Media experience: Mostly writing cultural journalism (both online and in print, currently as an editor at The L Magazine) especially to do with art, film, music and theater, some fairly rudimentary graphic design and Photoshop work, lots of blogging (at The L and for a side-project Listicles).
This weekend is The L Magazine's massive art and music extravaganza the Northside Festival, and to accompany the copious music coverage I've written an art preview discussing some of the biggest art events taking place at galleries in Williamsburg over the weekend. Click here to read the whole preview.
In this week's edition of Henry Stewart and I's feature Blockbluster we look at Tony Scott's remake of beloved 70s heist movie The Taking of Pelham 123, a very dull reboot with very little action and even then it's of the most arbitrary and forced sort. The original offered a look at a city in the midst of an economic crisis, and though Scott attempts something similar it's painfully clear that we're being addressed by an Angeleno. Denzel Washington and John Travolta are fairly innefectual in the lead roles, though James Gandolfini clocks the best performance as a nameless mayor very obviously ment to connote Mike Bloomberg. Click here to read the whole discussion.
(photo credit: © 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
This week Mos Def released his fourth solo album The Ecstatic. In my review I discussed how this marked a promising return to something closer to the promise that he showed on his solo debut Black on Both Sides (1999), while also leaving something to be desired for his next projects. On The Ecstatic Mos balances the rock interests that dominated his second album The New Danger with his true-school hip hop style. There were times when his habit of singing his way out of a song sapped the album's energy, and hopefully he'll soon abandon such third rate Andre 3000 imitations. Still, The Ecstatic is easily Mos' second-best album, and proves that he's still capable of terrific hip hop (something that his last album, the atrocious True Magic, had left me doubting). Click here to read the whole review.
In a recent edition of Henry Stewart and I's weekly feature Blockbluster we took a moralistic look at the latest Todd Phillips bromance The Hangover. Though it was extremely funny, its also followed a typically offensive, racist, classist, misogynist and juvenile bachelor-party-in-Vegas formula – with the mildly inventive difference that the action is glossed over via an ellipsis, and the actual comedy is in the piecing together of the events that transpired on that wild evening. Click here to read our whole discussion.
(photo credit: Frank Masi, Warner Bros.)