Creating and Selling Social Art


In the past the term social art almost always applied to art that has some particular social purpose or addresses some social concern. But there is another meaning developing. It is art as something created socially. In other words, it is art that more than one person participates in making. Let's look at an example, and some ideas for other possibilities.

When the financial firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, in September of 2008, employees were ordered to clean out their desks and vacate the building. As they left with their boxes of belongings, artist Geoffrey Raymond was there in front with his painting. It depicted former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld, as well as the former Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne, and the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He invited employees and others to write their comments directly onto the canvas (the word "greed" showed up as few times).

Shortly afterward, while the bankruptcy was still in the headlines, he was ready to sell the painting. Raymond was asking $10,000 for the painting. I have not heard if he got his price, but given the fact that this was reported in Time magazine and other places the notoriety of the painting probably made it worth something. It made me think of other ideas for such social art or public-participation art. Imagine for a moment if there was a large painting that had been created during the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, with hundreds of attendees (or better - some of the musical performers) adding their signatures or comments. I suspect that such a painting would be very valuable today.

That last example suggests one of the best ways to make social art profitable: create it in conjunction with a well-publicized event. I am writing this shortly after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power by a peaceful people's protest, and I wonder if an artist could have done well creating a large painting that was signed by hundreds in the streets of Cairo during the demonstrations. Any newsworthy event probably has some potential for a social art project.

Another possibility is to have people at an event draw or paint what they see. For example, a canvas could be filled with a hundred drawings of a president at her inauguration - each done by someone in the audience.

How Much Can You Make?

There is no way to say how much you can make with social art - or with any art. But it is a relatively cheap thing to try.

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You might consider creating not one piece of art for an event, but many, in order to sell more. For example, a well-attended reunion concert by a famous band might have many attendees who are willing to buy less-expensive paintings that have the signatures, comments, and photos of the people there as part of the artwork.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to be an artists, and in the case of social art you might not even need to be talented artistically. You might have other artists (who do have talent) each paint a small section of a canvas, for example, and add your own signature.

First Steps

Come up with an idea for social art and make a plan for creating it.


The Year of Magical Painting - Geoffrey Raymond's blog.

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Every Way to Make Money | Creating and Selling Social Art