In Hudson County, anyone can exploit young naive artists fresh out of schools. Factory owners, who have sucked dry blue collar workers of the past, now turn their bloody fangs loose on the new art market, providing art space at exorbitant prices, while jewelry stores, bars, even laundry mats rent their pitted blank walls to the unwary and untalented in hopes of cashing in on "art."
Like pill pushers, heroin dealers and pimps, many of these places get these young artists straight from school, calling themselves cultural establishments. On the other end, they edge in on unwise corporate investors who need to show cultural tastes in their back yard office space, bad paintings and sculptured pieces sell for ridiculously high prices and bask unnoticed in lobbies and offices.
"Every place is a museum," said on corporate lawyer, after displaying a crayon rendition of a suburban house and lawn, complete with orange sun and smoke rising from the chimney.
On the lawn of another corporate giant's headquarters is a sculpture of green legos two stories high. It had once been in the shape of a fire truck, but corporate officials noticed it blocked part of their headquarters sign and had a chunk of the art work removed.
"Of course the work still looks like a firetruck," a representative from the company said. "Well, sort of, anyway." Meanwhile back on the street, anyone with a store front cashes in. A roach and rodent exterminating place on 4th street recently said chemicals had smeared some of the paintings they had on display.
"No problem, the artist told us," the clerk there said. "In fact they sell better that way and now the artist uses our chemicals while painting. He says it gives it a realistic quality."
The one draw back, however, was the recent ruling by the Department of Environmental Protection that insisted upon putting warning labels on each painting. This was no problem either, according to the clerk. The label goes on the painting right next to the price tag.
And the price tag is everything. Many customers are leaving them on long after purchasing the works, just to let others know this is "real art" as opposed to their baby sister's kindergarten project stolen from the refrigerator door. Many of the "better" galleries are hired other artists to design their price tags.
"We wouldn't want the tag to clash with the work," one gallery owner said.
And the price indicated on these tags vary greatly, but all are exorbitantly high as cash registers ring over and over with profits from this new industry.
While artists get substantial prices for their work in some cases, all artists, rich or poor, give out much of their profits to gallery fees, agent fees, flyers advertizing the gallery, and fees for renting non-heated environmentally unsound old factory slots liberally called "work spaces".
"And what those people don't get, the government gets," said on young painter who creates and sells at a rate comparable to the un-unionized sweat shop garment workers of the 19th century. "I have to keep producing the stuff or I starve."
He said he's sold hundreds of paintings, some through top galleries, and yet still lives in a fourth-floor walkup cold-water flat.
"I'd be better off dealing drugs," the artist said. "At least then, I wouldn't have so many greedy little hands in my pockets."