Shopping Lists Replace Price Tags At Art Sale These tough economic times have forced many artists to get creative about survival. Bartering paintings for goods is one way of coping when cash is in short supply. An exhibition that began in Philadelphia and opened in New York this weekend puts art up for barter.
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Shopping Lists Replace Price Tags At Art Sale

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Shopping Lists Replace Price Tags At Art Sale

Shopping Lists Replace Price Tags At Art Sale

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/101914668/101914648" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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: From member station WHYY, Alex Schmidt reports.

ALEX SCHMIDT: The painting's about a week away from being completed. Mexan and Roe are meeting for hypnosis after a discussion about the progress of the work.

SCHMIDT: I've been thinking about Betty Boop since you told me that that's her personality. And that's - yeah, I was talking to my mom, and she said you know, it's funny. Some people don't understand why anybody would go to a hypnotist, and some people really don't understand why anybody would go to an artist, so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: And that may be true for a lot of artists, says Rachel Zimmerman. She owns InLiquid, a Philadelphia organization that represents artists online. She's seen a steady decline in sales since September.

SCHMIDT: That was very obvious when we had our big fundraiser, and it was like three days after the first big plunge in the stock market. I think, you know, we saw about a 30 percent loss.

SCHMIDT: So, he assembled an art show specifically centered around barter, where instead of a price, the tag on the wall lists items artists would be willing to take in exchange.

SCHMIDT: The idea is that artists have a platform where they can associate with the rest of the community and put their goods for offer for barter.

SCHMIDT: That approach even extended to organizing the show.

SCHMIDT: We got a videographer on board who we bartered with. We got wine for the ceremony that we bartered with, and I just traded with my dentist for a root canal and a crown.

SCHMIDT: Some artists Puri approached about the show felt bartering devalued their work. David Galenson agrees. He's an economics professor at the University of Chicago and has written about the economics of art.

SCHMIDT: But somehow, you don't have to come face to face with, well, I've just reduced my price to $100.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Dental work seems to be one of the most common things artists are willing to barter for. For people who get art this way, Rachel Zimmerman says it can be a nonthreatening and less expensive introduction to a world many of them only read about in the newspapers.

SCHMIDT: I think it's always hard for people to make that initial first step. You know, am I going to like this in a couple of years? And I think when you're bartering with something, you know, it seems like a less scary way of exchanging because you're not taking as quite of a big risk.

SCHMIDT: Hypnotist Steve Roe had never purchased an original work of art, much less commissioned one, before the art barter opportunity. He says giving his time as opposed to his dollars has made the work feel more valuable to him.

SCHMIDT: I know that when my wife gets this painting, which there's no way she could possibly expect that, it's going to make my wife happy, you know? It's not just all about the financial calculation.

SCHMIDT: As for Leeza Mexan, she says she's never felt better about being an artist, thanks to bartering and those hypnosis sessions. For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt in Philadelphia.

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