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Left to right: collage by Ruben B, photograph by Udom Surangsophon, photograph by Alan Kleinberg, map of California by Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin, drawing by Giuseppe Stampone (all photos by Simon Courchel)

We’ve all heard — perhaps even grown tired of hearing — of art organizations raising money on Kickstarter, but what about fundraising on Airbnb? Yes, the website simultaneously destabilizing entire cities’ housing markets and galvanizing the international hotel industry is helping at least one Brooklyn art center, the Invisible Dog in Boerum Hill, to fund its programming.

“I started three years ago, not on Airbnb at first, but directly through Invisible Dog. I started to use Airbnb when the studio became very popular and it was easier to manage check-ins and checkouts, payment, and correspondence,” Lucien Zayan, the director of the Invisible Dog, told Hyperallergic via email. “The reason I started is to offer housing to artists. I was facing a very serious problem with artists invited for a residency at Invisible Dog. I was giving them a work studio, but almost each time it was about finding them a place to live during their residency that was problematic, sometimes a nightmare. Several residence projects were cancelled because we never found the right place at the right moment: too far from Invisible Dog, expensive, dirty, inaccurate description, or even last-minute cancellation. Nothing really surprising in NYC, I guess.”

Invisible Dog studio installation view

Zayan has three studio apartments listed on Airbnb, each renting for $175 per night. There’s “Stylish Arty Brooklyn Appartment,” “BEAUTIFUL STUDIO IN BOERUM HILL #8,” and “Beautiful studio in Boerum Hill #6.” Each one is outfitted with vintage furniture, decorated in a sparse yet warm manner, pet friendly, and, unsurprisingly, features a great deal of art.

“Sixty percent of the art presented is from Invisible Dog artists, 40 percent from other origins, but just to clarify: The art presented in the studio is not lent by the artists but purchased by the Invisible Dog and is part of our permanent art collection,” Zayan explained. “We are currently doing an inventory but I can say we have something like 200 pieces now. It’s not about decoration as you can find that in many places, we really try to get the attention of the visitors. My dream would be to create a place like the Benesse Hotel in Naoshima, Japan. It’s magic, you can walk in the middle of the night between Judd, Richter, Giacommeti, Nauman, Twombly, and there is a major piece of art in each room … I’m smiling just thinking that our visitors will say in 20 years, ‘OMG, I slept next to a Ryan Frank or Ian Trask piece of art.’”

Painting by Oliver Jeffers and ceramic bowl by Joan Lurie

And, by all accounts, travelers are equally appreciative.

“Lucien was a great host,” wrote one Airbnb reviewer. “He gave us a tour in The Invisible Dog Art Center and introduced us to a number of artist that are working there. He also invited us to a party of one of the artists.”

Now, the studios serve a double purpose of boosting the Invisible Dog’s revenue and providing flexible and free housing for visiting artists.

“As it has become an important service we offer to our network, it has also become an important source of revenue for Invisible Dog,” Zayan said. “Fifty percent of the time they are occupied by artists in residence at Invisible Dog, free of charged, 50 percent of the time by other visitors (who are charged). And we have the freedom to host artists anytime we want!”

Painting by Alix Pereira da Cuhna, collage by Ashkan Honarvar

Left to right and top to bottom: “Pyromaniac” by Ian Trask, photograph by Simon Courchel, ladder by Ryan Frank, drawing by Lars Van Dooren, sculpture by Christopher Astley, and grenade calendar by Steven and William Ladd

Photo by Simon Courchel, sculpture by Mac Premo

Sculpture by Chong Gon Byun

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

One reply on “Brooklyn Art Center Uses Airbnb to Fund Its Programming”

  1. I have been doing the same thing for over a year (ESPA ArtHaus in downtown Edmonton, Canada), as a means to keep our (substantial) collections of small press & related artworks out of storage (or worse), after our funding dried up and I became unwilling to fund the org out of my own (already-meagre) freelance income anymore (15 years on). The constant influx of house-guests can be trying at times, but I’d much rather host lower-income people willing to stay at a cool/unconventional place (rather than the ridiculously expensive hotels nearby), than spend 50% or more of my time writing & reporting on laughably inadequate grants, or having to work outside the home at a shitty job just to make ends meet. Most of our guests aren’t artists and many have no initial interest in our collections (e.g., we have a lot of med students doing electives at a major hospital 2 blocks away so they request to stay here solely for convenience), but the vast majority of them appreciate the artwork-packed house and some even leave enlightened about the social issues the zines & artworks represent, so imo it’s a win-win. Unfortunately I can’t afford to offer free rooms to visiting artists or I would (I’ve been thinking about raising our rates so that we can offer free rooms at least once every few months, but I’m concerned it’d backfire – our rooms are only $44/night, by the way, so we’re still barely making ends meet, though right now it’s still much preferable to the alternatives).

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