The Promise of Introducing the Mona Lisa to the Blind

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The Mona Lisa is among the most famous paintings in the world—revered for centuries, owned by emperors and kings, and visited in the Louvre by approximately 6 million people annually. Still, its beauty and impact are diminished for people who cannot see it because of visual impairment. But that may be about to change if either of two crowdfunding campaigns currently on Indiegogo and Kickstarter succeeds.

The one on Indiegogo is a campaign proposed by Unseen Art that’s “raising $30,000 to create a software platform that would allow those without sight to download famous artworks and 3D-print them.”

Founder Marc Dillon has said, “The classical artworks of the world are something we believe everybody should have accessibility to and it should be free. […] So we have to build something in order to do that.”

The notion is to “let artists create 3D interpretations of artworks by scanning a photo of the original, then adding depth and simplifying detail.” Then, anyone with access to a 3D printer could access the file, download, and print.

The project on Kickstarter from the group 3DPhotoWorks is different in that it is looking to fund a much more expensive, commercial platform for use by museums, science centers, and other cultural organizations. They’ve developed and tested “a process called 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing” that is “capable of converting a painting, drawing, photograph or other form of traditional 2D artwork into a 3D printed tactile fine art” as large as five feet by ten feet.

The technology is based on the science of neuroplasticity and inspired by “the work of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” which shows “that the human brain is capable of processing the tactile information obtained from fingertip contact like it had been obtained from visualization.” In these cases, sensors have been “implemented into the prints, which when touched, give off audio that tells the user what is being shown at that part of the painting.” In that way, their brain can put together a mental picture of what’s in the painting, photograph or drawing.

One aesthetic question raised by this, according to Tech Crunch, is whether “a 3D painting [is] still a painting?” And, in another sense, are the new creations new pieces altogether? Dillon sees this as a differentiation between the two approaches, and describes 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing as “more of a relief style” versus the fully 3D models Unseen Art aims to distribute.” He argues that there’s particular value in the 3D modeling he’s proposing because they found, “there needs to be some depth of touch, and there needs to be some limitation to detail—a perspective on the art, or an impression of the art, for people to really understand it.” Using the Mona Lisa as the best-known example, he says, if you included every bit of detail about the picture, then people aren’t really going to get a lot out of it.

Regardless, Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, in talking about 3DPhotoWorks, stressed the importance of increased accessibility:

Too often people invent ways of describing art to blind people rather than creating authentic means for the blind to perceive visual imagery in nonvisual ways. This technology opens up new avenues for exploration and understanding and will enhance the experience for everyone. This technology also has the potential to allow greater participation by the blind in a wide variety of fields, especially the visual arts and STEM subjects.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Art-centric Apps Meet the New Art Audience in Full Embrace

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Grab your hashtags and your paddles. Today, every second counts as #fineart artists, galleries, museums, collectors, and entrepreneurs connect socially and for business in the fast-paced art marketplace. Instagram and a host of art-centric apps are revolutionizing and democratizing the world of art.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that eighty-one percent recipients of National Endowment of the Arts grants said the Internet and other technologies are “very important for promoting the arts.” Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also emphasized their importance, telling CNBC that, “Social media and art-related apps have allowed the New York museum to expand the reach of its art in the world.”

Sreenivasan, whose goal is to expand access to the Met’s collection, said, “It’s common to look at the comments on the posts, see people tagging their friends and setting up outings to the Met to see the art in person.” For organizations, having a large presence on digital media can also drive sales and museum visits. And Dave Krugman, a social media consultant and social editor at the BBDO ad agency who has 173,000 followers on his own Instagram account, said social media users can “publish to their own audiences and be their own editors and be their own storytellers.”

In the world of social media, both according to the 2015 Online Art Trade Report by Hiscox, the London-based fine-art insurers, and as reported by Bloomberg News, “Facebook and Instagram are considered the two most important social media channels in the art world.” A recent survey of art collectors on Instagram found that 51.5 percent of them had purchased works from artists they discovered there, with an average of five purchased works by artists originally found on the app.

As CNBC reported last week, “Tech start-ups are combining data and social media with artistic vision to help expand art appreciation—as well as find lucrative buyers and potential investors.”

  • Aura, which was featured at this year’s Association of Art Museum Directors meeting, is an app that “uses ‘big data’ to help art lovers keep track of all the works and exhibits they’ve seen, and helps them share what they love on social media.”
  • The app Artsy aims to make art accessible. “It works as an online database of more than 300,000 works in galleries and museums as well as The Art Genome Project, a system that logs similar qualities between artists and artworks.” The objective is to help people find art they love and want to buy.
  • Paddle8, an online auction house and app recently profiled in the New York Times, is among many betting that there’s a lot of money to be made where art and tech meet in the cloud.

Art fairs are also seeing a benefit, as buyers are increasingly taking advantage of online previews to get a jump on negotiating for art pieces they want rather than waiting to browse onsite at the fair. For example, at this month’s Art Basel, more than 500 inquiries were made beforehand via Artsy. This kind of activity can also increase the popularity of a piece or an artist, making it easier to assess the potential for higher sales and how the market is trending. Aura is a tool for just that purpose. And the stakes can be enormous these days—as evinced by the fact that last month, auction house Christie’s had its first $1 billion week.

But Instagram and the others are also a boon for more average investors and art lovers. The Artsy survey about how art collectors use Instagram found:

  • Of collectors surveyed, 87 percent checked Instagram more than twice a day, and 55 percent opened the app five or more times a day.
  • Collectors rely on Instagram as a tool for discovering and researching art trends.
  • Instagram has a clear impact as a discovery tool. Around 61 percent of collectors consistently look at an artist’s hashtag before buying—and 42% do so often.
  • As reported above, 51.5 percent of surveyed collectors had purchased work from artists they originally discovered through Instagram.
  • A large majority of collectors—73 percent—believe that Instagram makes the art market more transparent, with many citing that as its key impact.

The Artsy report concluded:

“Instagram is best viewed as a marketing tool as opposed to a sales tool. It is great for finding out about an artist’s most recent body of work, or learning of a gallery’s latest exhibition, or getting behind the scenes takes on the inner workings of the art world.”

Going forward, as the art business broadens its capabilities and reach online, key questions will be: How much control will artists have over sales of their work and cultivation of their audience? Who will the major power brokers be and how will they ensure audience loyalty? And, what are the risks and pitfalls to everyone involved as art is made more digitally accessible and technology makes it harder to protect?

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Global Initiative to Ensure Women Artists Gain Traction in Museums

The history of women in art has traditionally been about the pieces in the museum or gallery, rather than about the artists who created the art that’s there. That’s because so little of the art is by women, and few women artists have gained the access and the level of acceptance and success their male counterparts have in the male dominated art world.

The work of women artists has been barred, banned, and belittled in past generations, and even now, many would agree, they are significantly underrepresented in public and private collections around the world. In fact, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., founded in 1987, still bills itself as “the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to women’s creative contributions.”

But now, Valeria Napoleone, a philanthropist and art collector who has made women’s art the sole focus of her own collection since she began collecting in the early 1990s, has launched a global project in conjunction with the Contemporary Art Society in London and the SculptureCenter in New York to try to help even the score. According to ArtNet News, the new project, entitled “Valeria Napoleone XX,” will “endeavor to increase the number of commissions and number of female artists in public collections.” The first work was a commission by Anthea Hamilton from SculptureCenter in New York.

“The UK project will see a work from a female artist donated to a museum each year,”ArtNet News reports. To qualify for the UK project, institutions have to examine their collections, identify where they lack female artists’ work, and then make a case to be a candidate for the donation. If chosen, the museum will then host a solo show for the female artist. “Institutions who are members of the Contemporary Art Society and interested in the project can apply to the CAS and Napoleone for consideration from April 2016.”

There’s a lot of work to do to achieve parity, as evidenced by stats on the National Museum of Women in the Arts website. They report that while 51 percent of visual artists today are women and women earn half the MFAs granted in the U.S., only a quarter of solo exhibitions in L.A. and New York galleries feature women. In Europe, at the Venice Biennale, the 2009 edition featured 43 percent women, but in 2013 and 2014, the numbers dropped to only 26 percent and 33 percent respectively.

“Museum collections necessarily reflect historical gender imbalances and the 20th and 21st centuries have seen many more female artists achieving international recognition,” said Caroline Douglas, director of Contemporary Art Society. “But there’s still work to do. In joining forces with Valeria Napoleone, we have a unique opportunity to proactively help our Museum Members build collections that accurately reflect the diversity of great work being produced by living artists.”

NMWA’s director, Susan Fisher Sterling, has concurred, saying, “Women in the arts receive more recognition than they used to, but you only have to look at the winter auctions in London to see that we’ve got a long way to go: none of top 100 prices were for pieces by women artists. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with issues that are very entrenched, like those to do with power and money, it takes a long time to see a significant change.”

And then there’s the perception of value, which also needs to change. As Georgia O’Keefe famously said, “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Rent-to-Own Art – A Potential Boon to Buyers and Artists

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by Andre Smith

Many people linger in museums, longing to bring such beauty into their homes, perhaps dreaming of someday investing in artwork. So, what restricts that wish to a dream? For many art lovers and would-be buyers, the art market seems too complex and daunting, or art prices appear economically out-of-reach.

To accommodate this widespread but largely unfulfilled interest in art acquisition, many major museums and smaller galleries have started offering rental and rent-to-own programs, such as San Francisco’s MOMA.

While art rental has a long tradition, especially among corporate clients, the rent-to-own movement is increasingly gaining popularity. In many cases, the arrangement may benefit the buyer, the selling institution and the artist. Buyers get to see how they like “living with” the painting or sculpture before they commit to a major expenditure. As a result, individuals who would not usually consider purchasing art “whet their appetites” and just might begin a lifelong habit of collecting.

In the meantime, throughout the rental period, the gallery makes artwork available to appreciative eyes, which would otherwise be displayed at considerable expense, or kept out-of-sight in storage areas. In the long run, the gallery and artist also benefit, as the pool of potential buyers increases.

When a work is displayed in a home instead of a gallery setting, it instantly creates the word-of-mouth buzz that galleries usually labor to generate. Imagine that you’ve just acquired a beautiful piece of artwork, and you may only have it for a couple months: Wouldn’t you tell your friends, show it off with a dinner party or two, and flood your social media streams with proud images?

How Rent-to-Own Programs Work

In general, rent-to-own agreements are based around a commitment-free rental period, followed by the opportunity to make a purchase. Beyond that, individual programs can vary widely in the agreement details. According to BBC reports, two or three-month rentals are fairly common. Rental terms of a few months allow individuals to try out living with the artwork without burdening themselves with an excessively long commitment.

Pricing can also vary widely. As an example, the San Francisco MOMA might rent out a piece worth $30,000 for a little over $1000 per month. Taxes and installation charges also apply, and insurance costs will also vary. As with any rent-to-own arrangement, should the renter eventually decide to purchase, the final purchase price will be lowered to partially reflect the funds already invested during the rental period. For example, the Seattle Art Museum lets buyers put half of the rental fees toward the purchase price.

Expanding the Pool of Buyers

In general, the rent-to-own arrangement appeals to potential buyers for a few simple reasons. It allows them to enjoy artwork, in their homes, without committing to a major investment. Plus, for those interested in an eventual purchase, beginning with a rental significantly lowers the pressure and the risk of “buyer’s remorse.” As a result, risk-shy investors and novice art buyers are especially likely to find the option attractive.
Rent-to-own arrangements also offer a convenient alternative for a range of specific scenarios. For new companies in high-end sectors, acquiring the right artwork is fundamental to creating the office environment that gives clients the right impression. However, the cost of purchasing art outright can prove prohibitive for startups. By choosing to rent, with the option to buy, companies can suit their spending to meet the changing budget of their growing business.

Aiding Artists

Given the increasingly popularity of the rent-to-own arrangement, why should the scheme be of interest to artists? Firstly, by working with galleries that specialize in rentals, artists can massively increase their exposure. Although you may typically imagine your artwork to eventually grace a handsome home, consider how many more people will see a piece that hangs in a workplace. High-end hotels and competitive firms constitute many of the most ardent art renters. Many galleries, such as CKI Fine Art Rental, have specialized services to shepherd such clients through the art rental and rent-to-own process.

As an added bonus, letting galleries rent out your artworks ensures that they will be loved and appreciated. Instead of hanging at the back of a gallery, waiting to be purchased, your artwork will be continuously pleasing viewers. And at the same time, a growing public will be getting to know your name.

Andre Smith is a writer from Brisbane. His great passion is art – he’s an admirer of Ansel Adams‘ work and Asian fine art. You can connect with him on Google+.
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“One price fits all” at this fundraiser event for a local art league

By Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

Artist auction display - sketch

Last February (2012), two friends of mine headed to Old Town, Alexandria, VA to participate in The Art League’s Patrons’ Show.  For a $175 ticket, they each came home with an original work of art.  It was a sold-out night with almost 700 people attending.

I haven’t yet attended this event myself, but it’s gotten some good P.R.  My friends had read about it in Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Of” issue where it had been featured as the “Most Fun Art Fundraiser.”

I share this concept (as told to me through their experience) as the idea might resonate with you.

This annual event features hundreds of original pieces donated by Art League and Torpedo Factory Art Center artists.  The number of tickets sold matches the number of works donated, so everyone goes home with a piece of art.  Some of the selections are worth $175 … others are valued at thousands more.

(You can see photos of the 2012 artwork on Flicker here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/theartleague/sets/72157629236975371/ )

For reasons which will soon become obvious, guests are encouraged to view the works online and in person in the two weeks prior to the event.  They are advised to jot down the numbers of the pieces they find most appealing.  (The reason being is that they won’t have much time to decide at the event!)

On event night, ticket-holders crowd into the art space, taking up all three floors.  Seating is limited.  The announcer stands on the ground floor in the atrium area so he can be more easily heard and seen by those in the second and third levels.  Some guests lean over the railing to see and hear.

Tickets are randomly drawn as the event gets underway.  When the name of each ticket-holder is announced, he has a few seconds to shout out the number of the piece he wishes to claim.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first ticket holders drawn (my friends were in the 200s and 400s, respectively) it can be a short night for you.  Otherwise, the process takes several hours.  You’ll need to listen to each number called so that you can cross it from your list, should the chosen piece be on your list of favorites, too.

Though other prizes are randomly awarded throughout the night (e.g. tickets to shows, gift cards to restaurants and hotels), the focus is on the art.

Does it sound like the right fit for your growing art consortium?  My friends had fun and it’s a neat way to acquire an original piece of art.  It might just work for you.

see also 1/7/2013

 

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Considering a benefit auction to raise money for your art league? Hint: Don’t sell art.

by Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

13 Artist auction display

You and your colleagues in the art collective want to raise a little money.  Maybe you want to have some cash available to help each other with scholarships to attend art classes.  Maybe you want to upgrade the A/C in your studios.

While you sit around debating how best to raise the money, someone mentions the idea of a benefit auction.  Chances are, you and your friends have been asked to donate to those types of fundraisers before, so it’s only natural that you’d be familiar with them.

“Everyone can donate a piece of their art,” someone suggests, “We’ll sell tickets to the night, and we’ll auction the donations.” In principle, it sounds like a good idea.  After all, you’re an art league and you like art.

But here’s the hard fact:  In many cases, you’ll raise more money if you don’t sell art.

Benefit auctions raise the most money when the items they offer have mass appeal.  You don’t want to sell just anything.  You want to sell items that many people want to own.

Auctions are based on the concept of scarcity.  It’s that old principle of high demand and low supply.  When a benefit auction offers limited, desirable merchandise to many interested buyers, they raise a lot of money.

But sadly, some auction planners begin to think that “more is better.”  They fill their auction tables with anything, thereby creating a garage sale mentality among guests.  Stuff sells cheap.

As an artist, here’s the challenge with making the benefit auction all about art:  Your work (in most cases) doesn’t offer mass appeal that guests are willing to overpay to get. 

What sorts of things are in “high demand” in a benefit auction?  What types of things offer mass appeal?

  • A 5-course meal for six prepared in your home … it could be used for an anniversary dinner, birthday celebration, or a promotion party.
  • A long weekend in a private home on the lake …it can be used for a family retreat, a romantic getaway, or a quiet sanctuary.
  • Two seats to the always sold-out pro-football game … it can be used as a thank-you gift to a star sales representative in my company, a birthday present for my husband, a surprise treat for my son-in-law
  • Unusual, “once in a lifetime” activities (such as serving as Grand Marshal in a parade or taking a helicopter ride over your house) … it can be used as a memorable anniversary gift, a story for my next blog, a check off the bucket list

These are the types of things that many people enjoy doing or would like to do.  Each item is attractive to multiple people for multiple reasons.

In contrast, your mixed media piece “Shark Study I” doesn’t offer that same broad appeal.

So what should the art collective do?  How can you raise the funds for that new A/C unit?

Go ahead, plan a benefit auction.  And do what others do — seek donations like those listed above for your live auction.  To raise big money, stick with “known quantities.”

And when it comes to including your art in the event, sell it in a different way.  For instance, set up a bucket raffle whereby guests can buy multiple tickets and drop their ticket/s into the bucket of the art piece they like most.  Should they be the lucky winner drawn from the bucket, they would be able to take home the art for the price of their raffle tickets.

Remember: Offering items with mass appeal will raise you more money for less work.  Unless your artwork has mass appeal – and most art doesn’t – it won’t generate the returns you were hoping to achieve.

To learn more about benefit auctions and charity auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, visit www.RedAppleAuctions.com. The site includes her forward-thinking blog, free teleclasses, and a complementary download of her annual Auction Item Guide™– that reveals the top 100 items sold in gala auctions last year.

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10 Tips Selling Art to Galleries

 

Mindy Yanish, Owner, Offerings Gallery

What do artists have to know about working with retailers and gallery owners?

  1. Don’t think having friends and family like your work means you can succeed in selling to others on a regular basis.
  2. Know that being talented is not enough to be successful.
  3. Don’t treat all retailers or gallery owners the same; like artists, every retailer or gallery owner is unique and should be approached that way.
  4. Don’t assume the store or gallery owner doesn’t understand what it is to be an artist. Just because I own or run a store doesn’t mean I haven’t lived that struggle – in fact, I have and it’s been a double roller coaster.
  5. Don’t believe if you’re an artist you can’t be good at business. Operating a successful business is as creative as anything else you do in art. It’s a living thing like a painting, and you have to be very creative to make it work – the skills are very complementary.
  6. Realize that the relationship is not just about selling art – it’s much more than that. It’s collaboration between the store or gallery owner and the artist. The more I understand about you and your work, and the more I love it, the better I can translate and convey that to potential buyers.
  7. Understand that for the relationship to be successful there should be an emotional and I believe a spiritual connection between you and the person selling your work. Your work is much more than a physical product.
  8. Know I need to be able to convey information about your art and about you as an artist – art is part of a person’s soul, and if the artist realizes I’m not just a business person, and we connect, I can sell and speak about who they are in a meaningful way.
  9. The art world hasn’t to do with proximity (where you live), who refers you, or how much you sell. If you are producing art true to who you are, you are succeeding. You must, as an artist, do your most authentic work.
  10. Someone else can’t tell you how much you can get for your work. I can guide people, but it depends who you’re painting or creating your work for. Ask yourself: Who do you see as your audience? Are you doing it for the masses as a product, or are you creating for another type of buyer? How much time have you put in? What do you think your art is worth?

What, in addition to quality of work, makes you want to work with a new artist?

One word – Humility!

For me, that’s the sign of advanced art making. Once an artist thinks they’re past the point of accepting feedback and critique, then they’ve hit a wall and boxed themselves in. Those who are going to grow more are open to teaching.

How can an individual help you once her or she becomes one of your artists?

The artist should be willing and able to nurture the relationship with me through ongoing dialogue and communication as their work evolves. I want to know how and why that is happening.

This continues an exchange of ideas and keeps the relationship alive. It enriches both of us and lets me be part of the evolution of the person’s work. The artist’s authenticity must be heart-felt, and that can’t be faked. It’s about connection, not just the piece. Creativity is a gift you can’t own it.

Mindy Yanish is proprietor of Offerings Contemporary American Craft & Fine Art Gallery located in Katonah, New York north of New York City. Offerings specializes in local art as well as American hand-made jewelry and antiques, collectibles and contemporary fine crafts. Mindy holds a Master’s Degree in painting from the School of Visual Arts.

 

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