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Artwork rental, or the democratization of art?

by Louise Kronenberger

Illustration by Erika Kindsfather.

It has been a few years since the new trend started: the rental of artworks. As a student, unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of money to put into collecting artworks. However, this new trend might be the perfect solution for collecting artworks on a low budget.

Instead of buying an artwork that might bore you over time, you can choose one either online or in a gallery, and rent it for you own apartment or for a special occasion (party, celebration, etc.) for a limited time. Some companies or galleries offer you the opportunity to buy it after a trial period of your choice, but others don’t. You can change artworks regularly anytime you want. Sounds good, huh?

In a way, this practice enhances the democratization of art. Historically, buying art has been inaccessible for the average person, being oriented towards the social elite. But that is not true anymore. Artwork rentals as well as the recognition of urban art as art, over the past few decades, has proven that art is not reserved for the rich and educated class anymore. Everyone, even people with a lower budget, can rent an artwork. The prices can be as low as 10$ per month. That’s a pretty fair price to decorate your place and make it cozy.

If you fall in love with the artwork you rented, some galleries or websites allow you to buy it at the end of the trial period. As a result, this service is also a good way to promote emerging artists. It is easier to rent than to buy, since buying an artwork can be seen as a real commitment. Obviously if you come to find it ugly after a few months, come to regret it, or don’t want it hanging around in your living room, the option of renting can be useful. Also, if you happen to be someone who is indecisive, this is the perfect option for you. Changing the decor becomes really easy and less expensive.

If you are interested in the concept, there are a few galleries or websites that offer this service. In or near Montreal, you can contact art[o]. It is a creative cooperative of artistic solidarity, which promotes mainly local artists from five different artistic spheres. One of the services that they offer is the rental of artwork for the duration of one year. You have the possibility to buy them at the end of the period.

Otherwise, Art Bang Bang is another easy solution. It is maybe more easy for students to rent an artwork from this platform. It is a website that allows you to rent, buy or just lend artworks to anyone around the globe. Artists simply have to subscribe and manage their own account. Any art amateur can go and chose the artwork they want and what type of service. It is fairly easy, and the choice is very large.

Another option is the Artothèque. It is a library with more than 3,000 artworks that you can rent for very affordable prices. The purpose of this organization is not to make money, but to promote artists from Québec or Canada. The artworks for rent are of different mediums: paintings, sculpture, photographs, etc. The Artothèque offers the possibility to rent works from very recognized Canadian artists such as Jean-Paul Riopelle, but also from many emerging artists. If you want to encourage local art, this is a very good option. You can even brag about how you are so avant-garde. Unfortunately, these artworks are not available for purchase.

There are many compelling sides to this new type of service. On the other hand, one wouldn’t be able to build the special relationship with an artwork that is created over time. When you buy something when you’re younger, you might find it ugly or outdated a few years later. But at least, you can trace your evolution as an art collector. Even better, some artwork might gain value over time. Therefore, it is up to you to choose what option fits you best. So now you know that even you, a broke student, can become a real art collector.

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