Sunday, July 24, 2011

single oil painting seeks art lover for lifelong relationship

I stumbled upon this Boston start-up from an ad on Facebook and was compelled to check it out. Turning Art has been described as "NetFlix for artwork" but I'd argue it is more like an online dating service for art-lovers with commitment issues. You put together your queue and sign up to receive a print in the mail to try out on your wall. If you happen to fall in love you can choose to purchase the actual painting, but if you decide to just be friends, you can take comfort in knowing you'll have another one coming in the mail in a couple months to swap it out with. Folks who are unsure what kind of art they'd like to share their homes with can test-drive paintings with zero risk and it seems like a moderately effective way for artists to gain exposure and sell their work as well. And as incentive to continue using the service and eventually make a purchase, the longer you subscribe the more credits you accumulate toward buying an original painting. I think the "try it before you buy it" approach sounds rather clever.

While most of the artwork is hideously bad, I did manage to compile a queue that I may someday actually use:

I made my list pretty quickly using the site's "sort by color" tool and choosing orange and blue to match my living room furniture. Since I definitely have the mind of a designer rather than an artist I tend to wonder "does this match my couch?" before "does this hold deep meaning for me?" and so this feature was particularly effective for me.

But I am a little skeptical of the idea of buying art when I've only ever seen it as a print. For me it's not just the imagery but the physicality of the piece that resonates with me. It's the dating site equivalent of committing to someone of whom you've only seen photos. But seriously, I get the feeling this method works better for the photography than paintings on the site. For that reason I'm a little surprised that there are so many more paintings than photographs available.

Skepticism aside, I could definitely see myself trying out a service like this some day when I'm feeling a little less broke. The subscription price is actually very affordable but adding to my art collection right now is a luxury I'm postponing for the time being. Maybe I could save up by making some paintings to sell on the site. It appears that the system works much like a gallery: artists offer their work on consignment. Instead of displaying the work in person, Turning Art creates a number of prints. The prints are loaned but not sold; they explain that the prints are actually destroyed when the original is purchased.

I think this sounds like a really accessible way to enter the world of art collecting. I maintain that gallery shows and street fairs are the ideal venues for finding artwork to fall in love with but what if the art in your town really isn't your type? This just might be the way to go. I'd love to know if anyone out there has used this site, especially if it's culminated in a purchase.

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