All the work in The Cheaper Show sells for the same low price of $200. Because contributing artists are asked to submit their best work to it, I wondered why artists would sell their best work at so low a price so I interviewed a few past participants about their experience. For one of them, the appeal was in her assumption that The Cheaper Show would expose art to a new public—people who might otherwise not be able to afford contemporary artwork of good quality. Other artists I spoke with were attracted to the value of the preview to which curators, the media and dealers were to be invited.
So I spoke with more artists who had participated in past versions of The Cheaper Show and it left me with the impression that the show is working for everyone except the artists involved. The buyers are happy, especially those who were invited to the preview, and the producers of the show are happy because they report significant sales and, therefore, commissions. But are the artists well served?
My concern is that The Cheaper Show may actually devalue the work of artists. I worry that it creates the impression that good art is available at ridiculously low prices. And, as an advocate of other collective artist initiatives that facilitate a dynamic interaction and market for artists and their customers, it concerns me that The Cheaper Show is a corporate entity, rather than a not-for-profit society as is the case with The Eastside Culture Crawl, Artists in Our Midst, etc.
The artists in a recent Cheaper Show earned $133.93 per work sold. As one artist said to me, “At that price, you are giving away your work.”