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20/200 Vision

What if you could get a real work of art for as little as $20? And it’s not 
a coffeehouse portrait of Neil Young?

Illustration by Tom Tomkinson

“There’s a whole series of anxieties people have as soon as they step into an art gallery,” says New York City gallerist Jen Bekman. “You can actually see their bodies clench up.” In an effort to skirt the rocky shoals of gallery shopping and to create a new class of collectors who might otherwise balk at pricey, pretentious purchases, the former Netscape employee founded the website 20x200.com in 2007 to sell prints of the contemporary art she loves.

Peddling artists’ prints online is hardly a novel idea, though, and it can still be costly for those looking to upgrade from that Scarface poster. 20x200’s real inno­vation is offering the work of contemporary artists at an array of prices and sizes. It prints 200 eight-by-ten-inch copies of a photograph, painting, or work on paper and sells them each for $20—–hence the name. If your spare bedroom could use something bigger, consider an 11-by-14-inch for $50, or maybe a 24-by-30-inch for a cool G.

You can even search the site by artist, subject, price, and color (in the event that you know the bathroom needs a dash of red but aren’t sure precisely what form it should take).

“I want people collecting,” says Bekman. “And I want my site to be like the gateway drug of the art world. I know that if I can give people a taste and give them the experience of actually buying a piece 
of art, they’ll get hooked.”

And so far, it’s working. Bekman has shipped more than 76,000 prints by over 200 artists. “Artists want to have their work out there,” Bekman says. “I have 
a friend who has had a career for eight years, and after having one of his works come through 20x200, he told me that he’s never been owned by so many people.”

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    An Introduction to Art Collecting

    For millennia, kings and clerics alike have understood that little inspires awe and confers power better than a battalion of marble statues, an epic tapestry, or an exquisitely rendered portrait. Any story of art collection, however, is ineluctably a story of economics. Amass a fortune and art is often the first thing you’ll buy. Squander it and those Titians are the first things on the auction block. Yet for as long as the wealthy have adorned their homes with Grecian urns, so too have the hoi polloi managed to squirrel away artworks of their own.

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