Opinion

Jen Bekman’s Zombie Army

Watch your back, art world. There’s a dark force quietly building on the margins, slowly growing strong on a diet of affordable print editions and Tumblr posts. Yes, it’s Jen Bekman’s Zombie Army, and they’re here to EAT YOUR BRAINS sell you art!

The success of Jen Bekman’s 20×200 has created a slavish following of copiers, both of the woman and the website. We find the latest incarnation in an article in Maclean’s, which chronicles a Canadian version of Bekman’s 20×200. Just in case you haven’t noticed, Bekman also made Forbes’ list of top female entrepreneurs

Websites like EyeBuyArtArt We Love and Vancouver artist Indigo’s Cargoh.com all riding on the inroads that Jen Bekman has made into the business of distributing good art for cheap. Accessible to the every day buyer intimidated by larger purchases, these large print editions are gateway drugs into the world of art collecting. And Bekman has done a great job of it with slickly produced editions and a confident, reassuring brand.

Jen Bekman (image via 20x200.com)

But then Jen’s zombie army starts to get a little creepy, with more operations daily jumping into the print pool. In part, it’s because of the success of her business model and its elegant, populist simplicity. But it’s also about Jen Bekman herself, and the forthright, crusading figure she has cut across the worlds of art, tech and business.

Bekman gets a lot of honors and awards for her savvy. It’s easy to tell when this happens because the 20×200 founder is also a tireless self-promoter, as are most successful art people, and the nomination immediately crops up on her Twitter, Tumblr or the 20×200 website. Her latest accolade is a place on Forbes’ list of “Ten Female Entrepreneurs and Mompreneurs to Watch,” which is impressive for any art world institution. This is contemporary art out in the real world, making real money, for real artists.

Jen Bekman is a rising star of a new, slightly more democratic art world, but her imitators are never far behind. 20×200 is all well and good, but do we really need to deal with a zombie army of followers? In art, we’re always looking for something new. Jen pulled it off. Now let’s start over again.

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