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Exhibition A’s Bill Powers on Affordable Art
art is expensive. we know. we checked in with Bill Powers, a co-owner of online art gallery Exhibition A who is committed to making art buying less intimidating and more accessible. here, Powers talked to us about his first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, his signature rose-tinted glasses and why you just might find paintings hidden at the back of his closet…
Bill Powers is photographed in Half Gallery, a new uptown space he moved into in February. (It doubles as the office for Exhibition A.) He wears his own custom Mr. Powers cardigan, Levi’s 502 jeans, and loafers he picked up at Dick’s Sporting Goods. “My wife likes to tell people they’re Margiela,” he jokes.
How long have you been involved in the art world?
I opened Half Gallery in 2008 and then cofounded Exhibition A in 2010, but I had been writing about contemporary art since the late ’90s for publications like the New York Times, Details, Paper, Muse and Purple magazine.
Were you exposed to a lot of art as a kid?
My mom took me to see the King Tut show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in third grade. Does that count?
Where did the name Exhibition A come from?
I was thinking about that Andy Warhol book A Novel—Google the cover image—and also the play on words with ‘exhibit A,’ the way they introduce evidence in bad courtroom dramas on TV.
You and your wife, Cynthia, are big collectors. How does that process work for the two of you? Do you both buy what you love? Or is it a compromise?
Cynthia went to art school in Chicago, so that’s her first love, even before fashion. In terms of collecting, I sometimes borrow a page from my friend Andy Spade’s playbook: he buys a painting and puts it in a closet until his wife finds it later…
Is it true that when you launched Exhibition A, one of your goals was to make buying and collecting more approachable, no matter what one’s background was?
Yes, that’s exactly right. Today, auction houses and major galleries often sell artwork off jpegs they email to collectors, which can be scary when you’re talking about a million-dollar John Currin painting, but less so if it’s a five-hundred-dollar print by Rene Ricard. Exhibition A makes art approachable without dumbing it down. We consider ourselves an online art adviser.
How do you approach the network of artists and people you work with on Exhibition A?
We like to mix in established talent with more emerging names to keep things fresh. I find that art fans in general have a deep curiosity, so I like to imagine that our base is down to discover new creative voices with us.
Tell us about a few artists you’ve featured on Exhibition A who have knocked it out of the park.
Aurel Schmidt has a big following already, but when her print of a flower in an empty beer can sold out in one day, I was shocked at the demand was for her work. Ditto with Wes Lang. My biggest honor to date was working on an Exhibition A print with Richard Prince, who’s been an art hero of mine from day one.
How often are you adding new artists to the site?
We do a new print once a week.
Which artists do you have coming up on Exhibition A that you’re personally excited about?
We’re about to launch an edition of a Walter Robinson painting of french fries as part of his “Indulgences” series. It’s definitely good cholesterol.
Photography by Bryan Derballa.
To learn more about Exhibition A, click here.
Current Writing Project
So I found this website here and I thought it was right (write? lol puns) up my alley. It has a great message and a really cool prompt which is basically write a short story or poem through the eyes of someone from another culture. I chose Liberia, because I find that even though the country is severely troubled, the majority of the people there are kind and optimistic people, and first world countries could learn a lot from these people. So yeah, that’s what I’m writing now.
checking bill power’s book on Liberia out of the library don’t mind me…