Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First it was Amazon, now Restoration Hardware, but in a very different way.

I wrote about Amazon expanding its operations into the art market here [Link] back in September 2013. One local gallerist is entering the Amazon network already, and I look forward to seeing how it works for her.
RHCA Gallery

This time it is Restoration Hardware entering the fray in a very different way. Restoration Hardware Contemporary Art has opened a six-story, 28,000 sq. ft. cathedr...er...retail art monument in Chelsea. They will be largely showing commissioned work, meaning they are paying the artists up front. They are currently having five solo shows simultaneously.

The RH CEO, Gary Friedman has plans... “By chasing our hopes and dreams, we inspire others to chase theirs. By being creatively courageous and fearlessly fighting for what we believe in, we inspire others to do the same.” I continued, “By being open and giving of our light, we lift the spirits of others, who then reflect that light to another, and another. It’s a reflection that can be endless, and continue long after we leave this planet, and by doing so, then maybe we never left.” I ended, “It’s about a lot more than just selling furniture.”

 RH explains that they are creating an 'environment'. The works go up to about $30k USD presently. This is putting into practice the trend towards experience, not simply object acquisition. RHCA (and RH in general) is aiming at the Nouveau Age d' Or riche, one of the mainstays of the gallery scene. There are many fascinating questions about how well these new models for art sales will work, and how the current models will weather this onslaught, if they do at all.

How long before major corporate players move in to buy/unseat the major art fairs? Auction houses? Will corporations go into the lower-priced levels of this market? Will we see big box Wal-Arts? It is still much too soon to take the human measure of this.

The artscape is rapidly shifting, and while it doesn't look good for the galleries at the moment, it does for the artists and who knows? Gallerists are savvy enough to evolve rapidly.

From one POV it seems like an oil and water miscegenation, from another, seeing new models, all this interest in art, and its emphasis as a signifier of wealth and taste could bring in a lot of potential buyers.

--- Luis

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