Is TurningArt the newest force to be reckoned with in the online edition business? They seem to think so, and so do the tech content blogs that make a buck off of rewriting press releases. From CNN Money to TechCrunch, everyone’s calling their online art rental and sales program the Netflix of art. For a fee as low as $10 per month, TurningArt subscribers can rent limited-edition prints, and then return them anytime. If one of these thrifty consumers falls in love with the print, they’ll have the option to buy the original artwork at a much higher markup. We’re not really sure how they plan on convincing America to open up their wallets, given that there’s not much consumer crossover between the poster and original art markets, but whatever. It’s not our money they’re losing. And they do have investors!
TurningArt announced earlier this year that it received $1.5 million in additional funding, and the company has said that it plans on “using the capital to expand its artwork collection.” They’ve been approaching artists to join their program, but the deal they’re doling out to them isn’t convincing.
TurningArt has been trolling gallery websites for artists, and sending potential recruits digital copies of the artist agreement contract. The contract states that the company will commission an edition of 100 prints from the artist’s pre-existing work for use in the rental program. Every time someone rents a print, the artist will receive royalties— a paltry 10% commission during the rental period. This means that an artist will receive a whopping dollar bill minus PayPal fees at the $10/month subscriber rate.
If there’s real money to be made, it should be when a TurningArt subscriber upgrades from renting prints to purchasing the original artwork. Here’s the details of this process from the company’s artist agreement contract:
When the sale of an original piece is made through turningart.com, you will receive 60% of the sale proceeds and TurningArt will receive 40%. The responsibility for shipping costs will be handled in a case-by-case basis. At no time will the artist be responsible for paying more than 50% of the cost of shipping original artwork.
Since when do artists cover shipping costs for an artwork that’s been purchased by a collector? That’s not standard art gallery practice. The real dealbreaker here, though, is that TurningArt hasn’t left room for a gallery to take a cut in their contract—even though they’re approaching artists who currently have representation. Cutting galleries out of a deal is skeevy when that deal is built, in part, upon their work promoting the artist.
There’s no way represented artists can benefit from the type of deal TurningArt offers. While the company’s model may promise thrifty consumers the dream of cheap art, it doesn’t offer artists much at all. If anyone’s going to get rich off this, it’s not them.