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LOS ANGELES — As the contemporary art market continues to break records, topping $2 billion between July 2013–July 2014, it may seem like the only people who can afford to buy art anymore are Russian oligarchs, hedge fund brokers, or tech millionaires. The Posters, a new LA-based fine art publishing venture, hopes to challenge that model by offering high-quality prints by established and emerging contemporary artists at reasonable prices.
In contrast with most traditional print houses that produce works in limited editions, The Posters does not decide in advance how many of each print they will produce. Instead, each poster is available on their site for about six weeks. The number of prints they make is dependent on the amount of orders they receive in that period. Each print, no matter who the artist is, costs $55.
Co-founder Adrian Rosenfeld, former director of Matthew Marks Gallery, explained the motivation behind their modest price point: “When Nicholas Hayek started Swatch in the ’80s, it was to prove his hunch that people wanted to be a part of the experience of having a Swiss watch and that if you made something of quality and the experience was fun and cool, the $30 price tag would add to the ephemeral magic, not take away. We are interested in giving access to the experience of art, not the runaway train of asset-class thinking that’s infected the art world.”
Although they haven’t released sales figures, The Posters will presumably need to sell a lot of that experience to make their business model viable. This puts them more in line with large online outfits like art.com or saatchiart.com than with high-end, low-quantity print houses. Although she stresses the collectibility of their product, The Posters co-founder Athena Currey said via email, “You’ll never hear us talk about art as an investment as so many of the online merchants do.” Instead, The Posters produces, well, posters — high-quality ones, but posters all the same, that can be framed or simply tacked up on the wall. “You can live with them however you want because of the affordable price,” she notes.
One way they differentiate themselves from other for-profit print companies is that they will donate part of their revenues to educational arts programs. Ten percent from the sale of every poster will go to Inner-City Arts in Downtown LA. “From the outset, this idea that we would give some of the money away drove the conversation,” said Currey. “We wanted to begin with an organization in Los Angeles with whom we could have a dialogue and create a model for collaborating with future partners.”
As for the kinds of artists who will be featured, Rosenfeld and Currey are looking to both emerging and established artists, ranging from painters and photographers, to sculptors and even dancers. The first four offerings include a Matisse-like print from New York–based artist Nate Lowman, an ethereal abstraction by LA-based Owen Schmit, Paul Wackers’s curious collection of objects, and Wyatt Kahn’s fractured geometric composition. The next two artists will be Sadie Laska and Marc Hundley.
Just because they’re committed to producing affordable prints, doesn’t mean Rosenfeld and Currey aren’t also focused on quality. Their first posters are offset lithographs printed by family-run press Typecraft, Wood and Jones in Pasadena, who have been in the business for over 100 years. In the future, they plan to collaborate with master screen-printer Gene Licht, who printed for Warhol, one of the 20th century’s greatest proponents of art for all.