APRIL 2008 – NO. 23
Abandoned and adopted art
Since it launched in April, 2006, the Fine Art Adoption Network (FAAN) has been remarkably trouble free. 240 artists have posted work, 1,138 people registered as adopters and 330 adoptions have been completed. Adopters email the artists through the site and the artists choose who they want to give the work to. The adopters pay nothing for the work but are expected to cover transportation costs.
One of the first artworks to be adopted was also one of the largest, Aron Namenwirth's Loading Dock.
The painting was adopted by a woman working as the director of a care center for the handicapped in Rockland County, New York. It was temporarily housed at the care center. But when the adopter’s job was unexpectedly terminated the painting was abandoned. She did not respond to calls and emails from either the artist or from the care center, which had decided not to keep any of the possessions she left behind, including the painting. Devastated at the possibility of his painting being discarded, Aron contacted me and I sent out a mass email appeal to everyone connected to the Fine Art Adoption Network, artists and adopters.
If the story of Loading Dock can be seen as a cautionary tale of the possible downside of art adoption, an art distribution system still in its infancy, it is also a testament to FAAN as a community founded on assumptions of good will. Within 24 hours of the mass email, several offers to adopt Loading Dock materialized, including one from California and one from the United Kingdom. In another two days the painting was comfortably ensconced in its new home, Aron’s choice, as part of the collection of Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
FAAN is offered as a corrective, more than as an alternative, to the art market. Most of the artists on FAAN do sell their work and exhibit in galleries and museums and at least one showed up on the cover of Art Forum. Be that as it may, the art market is one of the few markets where supply is generally not dictated by demand. Artists continue to make art whether or not they are able to sell it. Meanwhile the market depends on an artificially created notion of a scarcity of good art. The notion of rarity that the market requires depends on a small number of artists being selected from a large pool. Partly because of this, the art market can only accommodate a fraction of the art objects that are being produced. It does a terrible job of putting art into a lot of homes. Many of the artworks adopted through FAAN are reaching homes that would be unlikely otherwise to house original artworks. Potentially, we are talking about a different relationship between art ownership and class. It seems clear that the demographics of people adopting art through FAAN are wider and more varied than those acquiring art through the gallery system.
Art-lending institutions exist both in Europe and the United States and bartering art for services is not uncommon, but art adoption, as far as we know, is new. Both the artist and the adopter are aware of participating in something outside of the commercial norm. There is a shared sense of shaping a transaction differently, in part because they are in direct communication with each other. The art on the FAAN website is marked by its separation from expected venues. It is not being displayed as artwork soliciting buyers and not as part of an exhibition, but as objects in a gift economy.
The future of FAAN is uncertain. The relationship with its sponsor, Art in General in New York, will officially end in July. Another sponsor or patron will need to be found. What I would really like to see is FAAN continuing to expand until it is functioning throughout the U.S. as well as internationally, so that anyone anywhere could check the site and see what art was available locally, for free.
Back to Top