The Busiest Gallery in Wynwood Might Be the Salvation Army
The blue-ticket prices on display can be haggled over, without a gallery's high-pressure sales approach. You also won't find anyone fussing over those little red dots trumpeting expensive purchases and designed to incite status anxiety. And customers aren't lured in with promises of free cheese or Chablis.
But at the Salvation Army thrift store at 90 NW 23rd St., the art business is booming in a big, untraditional way. With Wynwood galleries closing, moving, or teetering on the edge, the Salvation Army's approach to art sales might be an effective business model for success in these grim economic times.
"We get a lot of collectors who come in on the day of the gallery walks and buy this stuff, but when they find out everything is half-off on Wednesdays, they come back for the discounts," says Vernell Hammett, the thrift store's general manager and self-styled curator.
"This is an original Ferrante painting for $79.99," he says, pointing to a dreary, pastel-toned image of clay pots atop an adobe dwelling, which clashes with a garish olive-green armchair tucked in a nearby corner.
As the ersatz dealer gives Riptide the tour of his thrifty exhibit, a 7-year-old boy bangs away on an old piano while his mother fingers a print of a Parisian lady twirling a parasol.
Next to the woman hangs an original Thomas McKnight print depicting an ocean view from the porch of a Nantucket home. The peaceful image, fairly bedecked in an ornate frame, is priced at a low $24.99. Other offerings in the same price range include a bucolic scene of stylized animals marching in pairs aboard Noah's ark and a solitary American bald eagle in midflight.
While the Salvation Army's cheap, rotgut version of art might not lead to a stampede of snooty collectors anytime soon, for the price of a case of beer, you can find something to cheer up your ratty living room couch without taking a dirty shot to the liver. That's not always the case at galleries where a DVD of a naked artist packing glitter into her poop chute and farting silvery fairy dust can cost you a $2,500 hangover.
Local dealer Giovanni Rossi, who after a year in Wynwood is moving his eponymous gallery at 2628 NW Second Ave. out of the neighborhood, says the Salvation Army's venture into the art market makes sense. According to the 34-year-old, art crawlers visited his gallery maybe 12 nights a year during Second Saturdays and over the Art Basel weekend.
"More people are willing to spend $20 at the Salvation Army on a shitty poster than those who might come into my space and spend $20,000 on a painting by a serious artist. And good for them," he says.