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Art for the people, within their budgets

Updated: 2012-11-12 09:15
By Anita Patil ( Agencies)

Giant bags of rice? Check. Bales of toilet paper? Check. An original Matisse? Also, check. Online customers of Costco, a giant discount retailer, have been able to load their shopping carts with fine art like a lithograph by Andy Warhol for $1,349.99, a Marc Chagall lithograph for $1,199.99 or a framed lithograph by Henri Matisse for $829.99. The warehouse club store recently began listing "Fine Art" in its Home &Seasonal section on its Web site, along with its usual bulk grocery and household items.

Art for the people, within their budgets

Greg Moors, the San Francisco dealer supplying the art to Costco, said that he was driven by his vision of art for everybody. For many gallery owners and Internet art sellers, "the deal is more important than the customer," he told The Times. But with a brand-name store like Costco, "the customer is more important than the deal."

The often exclusive and expensive art market may be opening up to more of those customers, expanding its reach to the masses as art becomes an everyday thing. Artify began offering an art subscription service in California where customers can rent art made by local artists for a monthly fee. And Artsicle is a new online business that rents inexpensive art cheaply, catering to novice collectors with small budgets.

"The galleries made it very clear that they were not interested in a young buyer with a budget of $1,000," Alex Tryon, 26, a founder of Artsicle, told The Times. "I encountered a lot of attitude everywhere I went. At the same time, I met a lot of young people interested in art. There seemed like a disconnect, an inefficiency in the market."

That inefficiency meant opportunity. Artsicle ships about 100 works a month, and its roster of artists has grown to 150, with 3,000 works in its online inventory. Clients who rent pay $25 to $65 a month and have the option of purchasing the pieces for $500 to $2,500.

"It lets you live with a piece of art that you would not give a chance to otherwise," Alexandra Portnova, 31, who lives in Brooklyn and rented a painting, told The Times.

Art for the people, within their budgets

Idan Cohen, an investor in Artsicle, thought the venture could reach young people not exposed to the art world yet but who wanted something that looks good in their home. He told The Times: "I thought the art market was ready for innovation and disruption."

Or just commercialization. Fine art may be out of most people's price range, but increasingly, artists are collaborating with cosmetics companies to create collectible packaging of various prices. Labels for the Creme de Corps lotion by Kiehl's feature reproductions of an artwork by Kenny Scharf. Jeff Koons has also teamed with Kiehl's in the past, and Cindy Sherman, Marilyn Minter and Richard Phillips have designed items in the $20 range for M.A.C. On the higher end of the spectrum is Dior's artist edition of the bottle for its J'adore L'absolu scent, which is made of Murano glass and is designed by Jean-Michel Othoniel, costing $3,500. All are in a way little pieces of art, if not for the wall, at least for your bathroom shelf.

"I embrace the mass market," Mr. Scharf told The Times. "I came across resistance to mass in the '80s and I was surprised, because I thought then that Warhol had already gotten through it in the '60s. Again it seems to be finally accepted."

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