Banksie is, of course, the famous graffiti artist who has spent October as an artist in residence in the USA. He is also the man whose work is reckoned to be worth at least five figures.
This week, as part of that residency, he had a stall erected by Central Park that used an old man to sell original Banksie’s at 60 dollars each. Amazingly he only managed to sell eight pictures all day with total takings of 420 dollars allowing for a couple of discounts.
My first reaction was to see this as a condemnation of the pretentions of the art world. In other words, the people passing Central Park did not see these works as of value at 60 dollars let alone at the 20,000 dollars or more that some are supposed to be worth.
It would be easy to suggest that the art world like to keep their art exclusive by pricing it out of the range of ordinary people. It could also be argued that non-art people cannot appreciate good art. However, perhaps this isn’t about art snobbery or art ignorance. Maybe there are lessons here for entrepreneurs.
I certainly feel that Banksie produces an interesting product and I don’t have a problem with the price of some of his pieces. So we have to look at other possibilities for the failure to take advantage of this amazing offer.
Firstly, the products were sold at a simple stall along with other traders outside of Central Park. That is not where people would go to buy valuable art. Art with these sorts of price tags are normally sold in upmarket art galleries so people were conditioned not to expect these works to be valuable.
Secondly, given the normal price of Banksie works of art, you would not expect to pick up a masterpiece for 60 dollars. So conditioning would again make people suspicious.
The third thing that would affect whether or not to buy would be the disinterested old salesman. He did not give the impression of someone that was a stereotypical art dealer.
Too often I have seen some potentially great business ideas that have failed to work because they were sold in the wrong place, the valuable product was priced too low and the promotion of the product was weak.
My belief was that these were the reasons that Banksie didn’t sell more. Interestingly, I have a sneaking suspicion that Banksie knew all of these business principles and chose to produce a deliberately anti-entrepreneurial piece of 3D art!