Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Art at a Distance

"Several hundred people attend our openings over the web."

That is what Megan Lange at Robert Lange Studios (RLS) in Charleston, SC told me recently.  Mari and I stopped by there while attending a conference in that city.  The building and its space drew us in; the art kept us there.

I recently went to several studios in Manhattan, but none had the business model - or vibe - of RLS. RLS's approach may point the way being successful in the art world without having to be located in NYC, London, or Paris.

Though headed by Robert and Megan Lange, the studio is a diverse collective of artists mostly under thirty and mostly from the South.  Many of these artists keep a blog, where they show early drafts or working models of their next piece. The individual blogs aggregate automatically into the RLS 'Super' Blog, which appears on the main site. That blog in turn feeds into RLS's Facebook page, which has nearly 4,000 members. Prospective buyers are able to watch the works unfold, make comments, and interact with the artists, the gallery, and each other.

As a result of the quality of their art combined with their business plan and execution, the gallery has been able to weather the recent economic crisis - and even grow.  When I asked why, Megan told me she believes people still want to buy art, but are unwilling or unable to pay the large sums they previously had paid in New York, Paris, or London.  Instead, they want quality at the lower price range RLS is able to offer.

Many clients never visit the gallery in person.  The web site photos are good enough to convey quality, and buyers can gauge from the discussions on the blog and Facebook what they might like.  Those who come to the openings via webcam are able to appreciate the vibe and reactions of those visiting in person.  According to Megan, the gallery even ships several pieces a month overseas.

Impressive.  And an example for businesses in other sectors as well.

[Note: this post was amended on 1.10.11 to identify Megan Lange as the woman I spoke with at the gallery.]