Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ever wonder what happens to those art show vinyl street banners?

I assumed they were just given away, but no, art museums from the big cities sell their vinyl street banners at BetterWall. Shockingly expensive.


  1. From a few years working behind the scenes at museums, I can add that it depends on the museum and whether it's a curated group show (and essentially a museum production) or a solo show (and essentially a single-artist production). The solo show banners typically all go to the artist (unless the museum wants one for its archives and/or the artist isn't interested). The museum-curated group show banners all stay with the museums and they do what they want with them. Given the limited storage at most facilities paired with the lack of funding for the arts in this country, I'm all for them selling those banners for as much as they can get. Though, agreed, that's high.

  2. Thanks for the post, John.

    I thought I would give you some insight into our business and how it affects our pricing. As a companion to BetterWall, we administer a program with 32 art museum around the country called the Recycle & Reuse Program. This innovative program sells banners that are excellent condition on behalf of our art museum partners. Banners that are ripped, in poor condition or cannot be sold because they are not desirable are recycled, keeping tons of vinyl out of landfills each year. In fact, we just reached the milestone of recycling 100 tons of banner material.

    By selling some of the banners, we are able to offset the expense of recycling the banner material, a costly process since the durable, fiber-reinforced vinyl which is used for banners is not a standard material for recycling. Our program is also self-suporting - that is, the museums incur no cost to participate. We take on all of the expense of providing museums with our service including shipping, warehousing and restoring the banners.

    As you can imagine, this makes us a very untraditional retail business as we do not control our inventory. Everything we have is based on what the museums produce. And because we take all their banners, good and bad, we end up having to incur a fair amount of cost to house, go through and recycle the material. With some museums, about 75% of their banners can be sold and in other cases, only about 10% can be sold. And in many cases, we gets lots of damaged banners in large quantities, tons that is. This factors greatly into our cost.

    Another factor that affects cost is additional licenses that we must secure to sell the banners to the public. When we get the banners, the images reproduced have been only cleared for promotional purposes (for use as banners). Copyright law stipulates that additional licenses must be obtained for each use and retail is an additional use. This are not negligible costs, so this tags on more cost, sometimes up to 50% more.

    And finally, we share our profits with each museum. So with a purchase, not only do our customers a get piece for their homes, they are also supporting the museums and helping the environment.

    That's probably more detail than anyone wants, but it's the whole story.

    Nicolas Weiser
    Co-Founder, BetterWall