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It’s been a year since Indiewalls launched to give local artists a way to broaden their sales by hanging their work in stores instead of time-honored galleries. Now the online marketplace, which pairs artists with venues in need of art, is disrupting itself by changing its pay structure and focusing more on hotels as venues.
Indiewalls is not the first program of its kind, but it’s certainly another opportunity to extend the visibility of art — if only to more commercial settings. In doing so, it goes some distance toward making art seem like something that is part of the everyday, that regular people can own or at least see in daily life. Art jumped off of gallery walls long ago, but for many it still feels rarified.
Currently, 150 artists hang work in more than 20 subscribed venues: mostly corporate restaurants, cafés and hotels. These places will now pay a subscription fee, anywhere from $300 to few thousand dollars a month, depending on the size of space and the depth of curation. The artists receive 30% of this, regardless of whether their work sells. In exchange for that cut, artists have to now pay 40% — nearer to the commission of typical galleries — instead of 25% of their sales. The venues get 20% of the commission.
Indiewalls President Ari Grazi sees the new payment system as a way to make sure venues actively promote the artwork and for artists to earn some pocket — or art — money in the meantime. So far, Indiewalls has sold $50,000 worth of art, a sum that won’t rival New York’s engorged art scene, but it’s not trying to do that, anyway.
“I’m sure there’s overlap with galleries, but realistically, most of our consumers are not people who are buying artworks as investments,” Grazi said, referring the relatively inexpensive price tags; $300 to $10,000. Rather, he sees them as people who are interested in buying art but might not be able to afford more zeroes on the price tag.
Indiewalls’ main consideration, Grazi said, is the artists, most of whom are career artists who’ve shown in regular galleries. He said Indiewalls provides these artist exposure both online and on store walls (interested parties can view info about the pieces using QR codes underneath each piece, or they can view all the work on the website). “Our goal is to help artists sell work and get exposure, by pinpointing spaces that can effectively showcase their work,” Grazi, a former real estate broker, said.
Especially good for artists, he said, are hotels. “Hotels get a tremendous amount of benefit from the artwork, and hotels are nice places for artists to show their work.” Presumably, hotels have an audience that’s willing and able to buy local art.
For now, the locations are mostly in lower Manhattan — a placement Grazi, the main sales person at Indiewalls, blames on its vicinity to his home, from which he travels on bike — but there are plans to reach all of New York City and perhaps even establish a similar model elsewhere.
When asked whether hotels and other upscale venues — Trump Soho, for example — might limit the art’s exposure, he said that Indiewalls is still open to a wide range of venues, for which it would cater the price.
“If the White House called, of course we would do that,” Grazi said.
Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.