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The idea is simple: Artists upload high-resolution images of their work. A fulfillment center prints and ships editions direct to consumers, at different sizes, on materials that range from wall-mounted canvas and acrylic panels to yoga mats and tank tops. A.I.-powered statistical analysis tracks your potential buyers; a marketing calendar maps your social media strategy. The bespectacled sales representative showed me a summary of one artist’s yearly take: over $80,000. If I signed up in the next few hours, he said — at $1,699 upfront for the basic Bronze membership tier, plus $50 a month for the web store — they’d build my site for me. And I’d begin, supposedly, collecting cash.

Art Storefronts debuted in 2013. It now has 14,000 members. Nick Friend, the company’s chief executive and founder, graduated from U.S.C.’s Marshall School of Business. He developed the idea for Art Storefronts after starting a company that manufactures fine art papers and canvas.

As the Art Storefronts website puts it, “Selling art? Marketing is all that matters.

From the moment I surrendered my contact information, I sustained their hard sell: emails and text messages dangling one of a few dwindling slots in their latest limited promotion. Other emails promised further walk-throughs with satisfied Art Storefronts customers.

“I’ve noticed now so many ads, these videos, you know: Artists, I can help you make $500,000 and blah, blah, blah. And that’s always the promise,” said Karen Hutton, an accomplished landscape and travel photographer. She sells multiples through an Art Storefronts website, but that’s just one piece of a successful career. “I have a vision for what I want my business to be,” she told me. “Their business education doesn’t align with that. And that’s fine because it aligns with other people.”

Ideally, says one testosterone-laced Art Storefronts podcast episode from 2017 (removed from their website in the last several weeks), prospective members are encouraged to pass what they call the “Does My Art Suck?” test by selling their art, offline, to a stranger.

Friend told me that 20 percent of new members haven’t sold art before. Art Storefronts seemed ready to take my money, too — one marketing email said that my art had “randomly caught” a rep’s eye. But I hadn’t shown anyone any.



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