20x200: When Art Meets Commerce, An Industry Shifts
Here at Six Apart, we've always had one foot in the world of design and the other in technology, so it seems logical to us that a robust content management system like Movable Type can be used to create something beautiful - something that looks, well, nothing like a blog.
For those in an industry that prides itself on aesthetics and has long withstood digital innovation, that can be hard to imagine. Of the few industries that have resisted taking part in new media, none is more glamorous than Art. Long the province of whitewalled galleries and mysterious pricing schemes, art has historically been accessible only to a privileged few.
In January 2007, when gallery owner and entrepreneur Jen Bekman had her middle-of-the night revelation that the Internet was a perfect vehicle for making art available to everyone, she was instrumental in ushering the art market into the digital age. Jen named the venture 20x200, and devised the following formula: each week, she would offer two limited-edition prints - an edition of 200 for $20, an edition of 20 for $200, and an edition of 2 for $2,000. The entire business would be conducted online.
To build out the 20x200 site, Jen enlisted the help of photographer and web consultant Raul Gutierrez. Both Jen and Raul had extensive backgrounds in technology; Jen's career included leadership roles and Netscape and Disney, while Raul, himself an accomplished photographer, had built and produced a number of successful websites.
When they decided to use Movable Type to build out the site, they agreed on one thing: it couldn't look like a blog. The entire 20x200 site was built in Movable Type, using multiple custom plug-ins and integrating Google Checkout to make buying simple. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, Jen sends a newsletter to the 20x200 mailing list, in which she announces that day's edition and discusses its context and relevancy within the art world. The newsletter acts not only as a sales tool, but also as a rich source of information for new and seasoned collectors alike.
The newsletter contains links that lead to the page on the 20x200 site where the edition is displayed. Next to each edition sits a real-time inventory number, indicating how many pieces remain.
Movable Type demonstrates its abilities as a flexible, powerful CMS, allowing 20x200 to easily manage their growing catalogue of artwork. The site uses many custom fields to enable administrators to enter data for each edition quickly and simply; fields such as artist name, artist statement and website URL are consistent across each entry, so that visitors to the site can browse artists and find facts with ease.
Less than a year after 20x200 launched, the site has been an unqualified success: over 14,000 prints have been sold to date, to a customer list that includes artists, celebrities and respected collectors from around the world. The site has become an important corollary to Jen's New York gallery, and a vital part of her ongoing mission to champion emerging artists.
When we talk about Movable Type, we often say: "you imagine it, we enable it" and 20x200 demonstrates that maxim - dare we say - artfully.