Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DAMage Report - Rent to Own ART?!?

Rent to Own Art is a new concept that appears to be gaining notice. Elizabeth Darrow in Wilmington, NC sent out a circular letter to her mailing list of friends, fans and former buyers.

That letter began: “Art – Rent With the Option to Buy!” She offered to rent paintings and collages at a rate of $50 per month. (Her larger canvases often sell for $1,000 or more.) After a month, people could turn in the artwork for a different piece, or extend their rental time.

“If you decide you want to purchase the work, we can work out monthly payments that will be mutually agreeable,” Darrow wrote. As in other R2O agreements, the rent would be applied to the final purchase price. “These are unusual times that call for unusual proposals,” Darrow pointed out.

Similar services exist in larger cities, such as HangArt in San Francisco or the Art Rental and Sales Gallery of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I'm not sure if i think this is a brilliant marketing strategy that will help put much needed money into the pockets of artists or if i think this is a long term nightmare on how art may eventually be perceived and valued, if the "Rent to Own Art" catches on. Fine Art has been long regarded as something unique, special, investment. Even the creations of the worst artist are regarded as something with merit. (Maybe not a lot, but there is always the nod to the effort.)

The concept of "Renting" automatically infers disposable, or something of lesser value. You don't rent to own a ferrari. You don't rent to own a swimming pool. You don't rent to own INVESTMENTS. Renting, right or wrong, has connotations of purchasing something of "less valuable." Do we really want fine art to fall into the realm of Rooms to Go and Walmart art?

Many struggling artists already allow their patrons to buy their art in payment plans if the art is pricey. I've done this myself many times, But once you buy it, it's yours. You don't get to swap it out. The owner can sell it to another person if they choose if they are looking to make money or no longer want the piece of art.

Good idea that allows people who often can't afford art to purchase it or bad idea that turns the perception of Art into a cheap commodity?


billy pilgrim said...

seems like an excellent idea to me.

Woozie said...

In a class I took in the spring, we actually talked about this a bit. The professor talked for a while about how this makes art much more accessible to common people, makes it less bourgeois-dominated and more friendly to the masses. Artists gain exposure, acceptance, and money.

I can see why someone would think renting cheapens the work being rented but there's really not much I can say to challenge that; it's a feeling you hold that doesn't seem to me to be entirely irrational. It's just something that I personally don't feel. As much as you do, anyway. I wouldn't like renting my stuff but I think I would do it if I had to pay bills or something.

Paul said...

Anything that makes art more accessible and makes it easier for an artist to earn a living is a good thing in my opinion. I wonder if it would work with books?