It’s high season in the high-end art world, and while most buyers aren’t in the market for a $170 million Modigliani or a $100 million Picasso, “there’s huge growth in the art market,” said Philip Hoffman, who heads the Fine Art Fund Group, an art investment house. Companies like Restoration Hardware and Amazon are increasingly trying to get a piece of that growth.
But first they have to get the attention of the art crowd.
To that end, Restoration Hardware commissioned a large-scale art installation called “The Rain Room” that is currently on loan to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The piece was created by the art collective, Random International. As Hannes Koch, one of the collective’s co-founders explains it, the rain room is “an artificial rainstorm that surrounds you but doesn’t affect you.” In other words, you don’t get wet.
Marketplace’s Jenny Ament walks through the Rain Room at LACMA.
The exhibit has been pulling in sold-out crowds since it opened a few weeks ago. Restoration gets only a small mention in the museum’s brochure. But the Rain Room gets some big play in Restoration’s glossy catalog for its new chain of RH Modern stores, where more down-to-earth-size works of art will be sold. Restoration has also started an art website, where original oil paintings can go for $11,000.
Amazon Art is also trying to tap into art buyers who are still a couple zeros shy of a Modigliani. Just a few clicks from the toilet paper, for instance, you can find an Andy Warhol print for $140,000, or a $300 painting of “Fluffy Cat.”
It’s hard to know how successful these art ventures are, as neither company breaks out individual numbers for its art sales.
Alan Bamberger, an art consultant from artbusiness.com, says the challenge for companies like Restoration and Amazon is to offer distinctive works that set their marketplaces apart, much the way galleries differentiate themselves from each other. The advantage, he says, is that unlike galleries, their reach is unlimited. “The upside is that it makes art more accessible to more people.”