Art-Exchange.com Brouhaha Still Brewing

Discussion boards such as Wet Canvas serve a great need. The work as a communal watering hole where like-minded folks can gather and share their experiences, knowledge and shared interests.

A four-year running discussion about Art-Exchange.com and its business practices has been raging on Wet Canvas, which is the largest artist discussion board on the Internet. A search for the term "art-exchange" there returns 21 results of different threads or discussions. Nearly all are started by artists asking for help, opinion and firsthand experience with the company.

The primary thread with "Art-Exchange.com…any opinions?" was started in June, 2005 and has more than 100 replies and 7500 views. This is an enormous amount of response and that it continues to stay lively nearly 4 years later shows the amount of interest and angst generated by the company's business tactics. The near universal response has been outrage and anger from the Wet Canvas art community. Discussion boards such as Wet Canvas serve a great need. The work as a communal watering hole where like-minded folks can gather and share their experiences, knowledge and shared interests.

The latest round of posts were started when a poster named David Miller, who introduced himself as the new president of Art-Exchange.com came on to try to defend the company. He was rightly disturbed by a comment that the employees there should be shot. We all know such talk is meaningless hyperbole attempting to portray the level of anger towards the company and its aggressive sales staff. But, on this point I think he has a right to be disturbed. Not so much, or not at all on reasoned explanations of how artists were treated and solicited by his sales staff.

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Needless to say, the response was not pleasant to Mr. Miller's post. A request was put to him to provide artists who would come forth and tell about their positive experience with the company. A suspicious first-time newbie poster named Bill joined the conversation with a kind of passive-aggressive defense of the company. When challenged to prove he was not a shill by providing a Website or some evidence of a real art career, he lamely says he hasn't joined the 2000s yet and has no Internet exposure. He further says he is contemplating working with Art-Exchange.com. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The discussion of this company is not isolated to just Wet Canvas. You can find strongly held opinions on www.artspan.com and www.artscuttlebutt.com. The later has unfortunately lost many of its older posts when its forum was hit with a hacker attack. It contained some lengthy posts and replies all pointing to artists who had poor experiences dealing with Art-Exchange.com.

There are lessons here. For artists, take the time to perform due diligence when being asked to put up front money for marketing assistance. For companies who have vocal constituents, don't wait years to try and correct a negative perception about the company. In this case for Art-Exchange.com, the ship has sailed and the cow left the barn. Perhaps Mr. Miller can turn the company around, but it will take a long time with an ongoing effort by the company to change its image with the artist community, especially those who participate regularly on discussion boards.

The final lesson is no matter how small or large your company may be, don't take for granted that customer satisfaction is paramount to your long term success. Caveat emptor.

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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