THE PIONEER: 20x200
LAUNCHED IN 2007 by Jen Bekman, a downtown dealer (Jen Bekman Gallery, on Spring Street) with a background in digital technology, 20x200 was a million-dollar business by 2009. That year Bekman received $800,000 in venture-capital financing to grow 20x200—so called for the price of its smallest prints ($20) and the edition size at the time the company was founded (200). “Art for Everyone” is 20x200’s tagline, and the idea is that each work sold online—typically an inkjet print on archival paper (the nomenclature on the website is “archival pigment print”)—is available in three to five sizes. Today, the prints run between $20 for the smallest size (usually 8 by 10 inches) to $5,000 for the largest (40 by 60 inches). Though most of the artists are emerging, others are well known (William Wegman, Mike and Doug Starn, Roger Ballen, et al.). Emerging photographers are vetted through an annual juried competition, “Hey, Hot Shot!,” that Bekman sponsors.
The 20x200 website also sells some of the original artworks on which editions are based, along with, occasionally, silkscreen and letterpress prints, and some prints with hand additions by the artist. Profits are split 50/50 from the start, with the cost of production (typically low) coming out of the artist’s take. To date the site has produced over 400 editions by 215 artists, and sold more than 95,000 prints. How much do they make? One edition, reports Bekman, grossed $250,000, though she declines to disclose which one.
Penelope Umbrico is an artist who has produced two editions for 20x200 with imagery captured from the
Web, the modus operandi for all her work. One is a montage of moons—a benefit for the Aperture Foundation—and the other of sunsets. “I made these pieces specifically for 20x200,” says Umbrico. “I basically ganged hundreds of pictures of sunsets and hundreds of pictures of moonscapes to get a psychedelic effect.” Umbrico herself buys 20x200 prints, “though I didn’t until I had work there.” She likes purchasing them “every once in a while, for presents. I like the idea that there is this really available opportunity to own someone’s creative process.” Marni Shapiro, a retail analyst from New York, buys enthusiastically from 20x200. “My work is figuring out how people spend their money. People are intimidated by art. But to make it accessible? That, to me, is huge.”