Photography: The Democratization of Art?


Art collecting still has an elitist smack to it. Original oeuvres are usually too pricey for the common folks as their production is lengthy and hence cost-intensive.

Art photography offers an alternative. The piece is created within a fraction of a second and can be reproduced as often as required at relatively low costs.

However, one of the core tenets for collectors of art sits within the exclusivity of any given piece. This might be why large parts the general public do not always perceive photography to be an art form equivalent to painting, theatre or music. Galleries solved this problem by limiting editions to either one-off works of art or extremely exclusive pieces with print runs of no more than five, leading – once again – to very high prices, usually only affordable by established collectors, institutions, and museums. The only alternative being mass-produced prints in museum gift shops.

Art for everyone

With exclusivity being a core pillar to a piece of art, mass production cannot offer an alternative. Democratization of art does not mean that everyone can effectively produce pieces of art with their digital camera on their vacation in Spain, but that everyone should be capable of owning original art work.

Seeing a market gap to be filled Lumas offers more than 1,800 pieces by approximately 200 established artists and promising newcomers, as well as historical and contemporary pieces from selected archives as hand-signed original photographs. These limited editions usually range from 75 to 150 prints. This allows the artwork to be offered at lower prices.

Exclusivity is something loved by art collectors but not necessary an important element of art. Prints are not paintings, they can be reproduced easily. This is something we can take advantage of when trying to democratize art for everybody.

Higher print runs allow for lower prices

With the help of the artist, Lumas determines the individual value of every edition, taking into account the popularity of the artist, the significance of the piece, as well as the format and size of the print run. Works of art with a relatively high print run enable prices starting from $100-$700.

If art is to be democratized then we have to start thinking about its affordability, but we also have to ensure that this does not affect its true value as art. Owning art can be democratized, but creating it is not entirely the same. Otherwise it would just lose its punch.