Big Box Retailers Get into the Art Market
Friday, October 12, 2012
You probably shop at Costco for great deals on buckets of salsa and crates of toilet paper. But earlier this fall, the discount giant began selling high-quality fine art — including works by Matisse and Warhol — in its online store.
Greg Moors is an independent art dealer who supplies large retailers, including Costco.com, with art to sell to the general public. Moors says the idea came to him several years ago, walking through a big box chain. He was bothered by a picture of the Eiffel Tower with canceled stamps in a shoddy frame. "Why do regular people have to buy junk?" he asks Kurt. "Why is that always offered to us when there are less expensive things out there that are historical, beautiful, and collectible?"
Moors hopes to help launch the careers of living artists as well, such as Johnny Botts, who recently painted several murals in the new Facebook corporate headquarters. Botts’ canvases are full of bright colors, robots, and space travel — Moors describes it as "neo neo-pop." And as of this writing, Costco.com has sold out of Botts' work.
Discount retailers selling fine art isn't a new idea. In the 1960s, Sears worked with the actor Vincent Price to create a collection to sell in its stores. Customers could walk out with framed prints by Hiroshige, Dali, Chagall, or even Rembrandt. It all reminds Kurt of the 1980s and '90s, when high-end stylishness was mass merchandised at chains like Ikea, Urban Outfitters, and Starbucks. Could buying serious fine art at discount chains be the next phase? "I think that they're the new culture czars," Moors says.
Video: The Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art