Hanging artwork in coffee shops and restaurants has always been a great way for up-and-coming artists to get exposure for their work. But it’s rarely been a great way to sell it.
Unlike more formal, established galleries, small coffee shops and restaurants often don’t have the infrastructure or, frankly, time, to add “art dealer” to their list of duties.
So when latte sippers take a shine to a piece on the walls, they often have to deal with the artist directly, which means tracking down contact information and setting up a meet. And that gives the interested party plenty of time after their caffeine high wears off to decide that sketch isn’t worth the hassle.
Andrew Gray can relate. After spending days trying to get up with an artist whose work he wanted to buy, Gray saw the need for a better way to pay. And he realized his company could build it.
As a partner and chief technical officer at the Tayloe/Gray digital marketing and technology firm in Wilmington, Gray tasked his team with streamlining the process of paying for art.
The result? The simply but aptly named PayforArt.com
The process is simple enough. When artists register their art with the site, they get an individualized six-digit code for each piece. Those codes are displayed alongside the artwork with instructions to visit PayforArt.com to buy the piece. A buyer accesses the site via a smartphone or other device, types the code into the site, then pays securely with a credit card (through e-commerce platform Stripe). Then they can show the confirmation screen to the busy barista and take the piece home.
Gray hopes the easy process will encourage more people to purchase art they enjoy – and get more artists paid for more pieces.
PayforArt.com collects 5 percent of the sale price, plus 5 percent of any commission paid to the venue. Stripe also collects 3 percent plus a 30-cent transaction fee.
So a $100 painting sold at a coffee shop that takes 20 percent commission would earn the artist $70.70. The venue would collect $20 and PayforArt. com would collect $6. Stripe pockets the remaining $3.30.
“People keep saying it’s a good idea,” Gray said recently. “I’m getting interesting outreach from people across the state.”
PayforArt.com officially launched Jan. 27.
And you can already use it to pay for art at Bombers Bev Co., Coastal Cupcakes and Palate in Wilmington. But Gray wants to go national, and quickly.
Ultimately, Gray knows to find success it’s the artists, not just the patrons, who need to fall in love with PayfortArt.com. So Tayloe/Gray will organize pop-up art shows at locations across the country to spread the word about the site and encourage artists to try it out.
A pop-up is already planned for early March in Los Angeles, and Gray hopes to follow that up with events in other North Carolina cities in the next few months.
The whole process has moved quickly since that week Gray tried to track down that artist to pay for a $20 print, but Gray said he’s enjoyed developing an application in-house.
“It’s a little more cutting edge than we normally do,” he said, adding that they’ve been able to try out features they’ve never used before. This is the first time they’ve developed something with Stripe, for example.
“It’s been a really good learning opportunity,” he said. “We get to try new things without risking a client’s money – or getting client approval.”