Jen Bekman is the founder and CEO of 20×200, a marketplace helping artists make a living by turning everyone into an art collector.
XOXOing: Art and Collecting
Jen had truly believed that art is for everyone, and when 20×200 says “art” they really mean “art, and when they say “everyone”, they really mean everyone. This began with her Jen Bekman Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but even that gallery was still too intimidating for most people to enter and buy art.
The $20 print is the gateway drug of the art world. She’s showing the “unboxing” of a Mike Monteiro print, with a certificate of authenticity and all the trappings of a normal gallery print, even if they spent very little on their first print.
Because people have lots of hang-ups about feeling too inexpert or inexperienced to buy arts, and so offering a newsletter helped educate buyers about the artwork. And your inbox is a safe place where nobody is looking over your shoulder while you learn about art. The whole experience is designed to be very customer-oriented, so that it’s not as exclusionary as traditional art collection, but something everyone does, just like watching a movie or reading a book.
“It’s a much richer experience than buying a poster at Ikea.” Browsing artwork by color is something that’s verboten in the art world, but by making a consumer experience based on the idea that you like a particular color is a great way of bringing new people into the world of collecting art. And at the same time, having a physical gallery keeps the company relevant and connected to the traditional art world.
Much of the conversation at XOXO has been about disintermediating middlemen (and middlewomen), but 20×200 is a curated site, which manages production and shipping with consumers in mind and in collaboration with artists. Artists shouldn’t have to do these hard parts, especially since it’s uncomfortable for artists to think about these issues.
[Series of works that have been in editions on 20×200]
Shout out to Mike Monteiro’s “May the bridges I burn light the way” which Jen has hanging in her house because, “Well, fuck it.”
“Money is awesome. Artists should have more of it.” Jen speaks in contrast to Dan Harmon’s point, that not having money is really as awful as money’s toxic influence. If your’e not making a living from your work, it’s very hard to survive. A word association reveals that people associate “collector” with wealth and “artist” with poverty, which is a very broken dynamic that even leads some artists to think they’re supposed to be poor if they’re any good.
Shows Jorge Columbo’s prints which were created on an iPhone app, and points out that people see his great works and are motivated to buy the app he used, instead of buying prints of his works themselves.
It’s working – 20×200 has released over 800 editions by 300 artists, selling 180,000 prints to collectors in 42 countries. 108 editions have earned over $20,000, 46 aritsts have made more than $50,000 from 20×200.
Finally, obligatory “GET EXCITED AND MAKE THINGS” closing.