As well as providing an element of exclusivity, the editions are limited to add a bit of urgency to people's purchases: buy now or you may miss the boat. The works probably won't appreciate in value, but then if you get lucky and buy something from an artist who later makes it big, who knows?
I think it's a noble project with the good old-fashioned mission of taking art to the masses. Of course, as Brit points out, it will probably be the desire to look cool and interesting that in most cases propels someone to make a purchase (especially if they can drop the words 'limited edition' into conversations with nervously impressed friends and, to be frank, those they'd like to bunk up with). Jan Bekman, the founder, is quite up-front about this:
“I want anyone who’s educated and even remotely affluent to feel self-conscious if they don’t have an art collection that they can talk about.”
All well and good; anything that sounds idealistic but appeals to people's baser instincts should do well.
However, I do have a concern about the economics. The artists (again, laudably) will receive 50% of the proceeds, leaving $10 for 20x200. So they stand to receive $2000 in revenue from each edition. That doesn't seem a lot to me for sourcing, printing, stocking, scanning, fulfilling, etc. the product (not to mention customer service: they're willing to recommend art that goes with the sofa). Perhaps they're planning to bait and switch, selling the more expensive, larger prints available for the same works for up to $200? Whatever, I'm sure they've done the numbers and must be looking to make it work through pretty huge volumes. Good luck to them.
Below is Feral House 7 by James Griffioen, for sale at 20x200 and which I've seen elsewhere recently but can't remember where. It's an abandoned house in depressed downtown Detroit.
H/t: Felix Salmon.
On the programme referred to in Brit's post, The Art on Your Wall, they revealed that the most popular print in the country is this image of Ullswater. The interviewees who owned the picture thought it looked romantic or restful.
Am I the only person to think of death, when I see it? I mean, apart from the depressive, funereal colour tones, surely piers or jetties are bridges that don't go anywhere? They represent a full-stop or at least a major interruption. I picture a Virginia Woolf-type figure wandering off the end, her pocket full of stones. Or perhaps a Viking longboat being pushed off, flames licking the bier.
I can't imagine the million (really) prints sold to date were all sold to people who thought, 'wow, what a lovely reminder of death - must get that for the sitting room'. So I wonder why I do? (Before anyone wonders, I assure you that I'm not clinically depressed or even non-clinically down-in-the-mouth).