• March 28, 2005
  • Posted by Marc

Wooster Mobile in Today’s New York Times

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Today’s New York Times has a terrific story about href="http://www.woostercollective.com/mobile/">Wooster Mobile. So if you
have a mobile phone that shows “wallpapers” check out the gallery for href="http://www.woostercollective.com/mobile">Series 1, as the money goes
to a good cause - the artist and an amazing charity called Keep A Child

Here’s the story:

Coming to a Phone Near You: Street Art


By href="http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=RANDY%20KENNEDY&fdq
title="More Articles by Randy Kennedy">RANDY KENNEDY


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Published: March
28, 2005


Besides good takeout, it seems there are few things now that cannot be sent to a cellphone - games, pictures, videos, Top 40 music, live television and soon, companies promise, full-length feature films. So why not contemporary art?

This month, a New York-based Web site that celebrates graffiti and other street art began testing a system to address this shortcoming by allowing art lovers to download images created by emerging artists onto the video screens of their cellphones. Calling it a “curated online art gallery for your mobile phone,” the founders of the Web site, woostercollective.com, are hoping it will provide a new way for struggling young artists to make money, in much the same way that a songwriter can earn money from radio play or an actor from reruns.

Many of the images in the project’s first “gallery show” are familiar ones to fans of the kinds of stickers, wheat-paste posters, freehand graffiti and stenciled paintings known as street art, which appear on walls, mailboxes and bus stops in cities around the world. Some practitioners, like Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles artist considered one of the fathers of sticker art, have significant followings and have been able to land gallery shows and lucrative design and marketing work for clothing and record companies.

But other street artists make little money, so the founders of the cellphone project say they hope thousands of their fans around the world will be willing to pay their carriers $1.99 per image to have their work as “wallpaper” on their phones’ tiny screens.

“How much of a revenue stream it will be depends on a lot of factors,” said Marc Schiller, who founded the Web site and the cellphone gallery with his wife, Sara. “But the goal is really to try to find a way to help artists do what they do for a living.”

The artists will receive 11 percent of the money made when their images are downloaded, Mr. Schiller said. An additional 12 percent will go to Keep a Child Alive, a charity that provides medicine in Africa and elsewhere to children and adults who are H.I.V. positive or have AIDS. The rest of the money goes to overhead, Mr. Schiller said, adding that he and his wife make no money from the project.

The project appears to be one of the first of its kind. Nokia, the cellphone company, began a similar program last year that offers users of its phones free downloads of images from a handful of emerging artists and contemporary stars like William Wegman, Nam June Paik and Louise Bourgeois.

Mr. Schiller, who acknowledged in an interview that he had never downloaded an image onto his cellphone, said that since the project began on March 14, several hundred people a day from various countries had downloaded the images. (In the United States, images are currently available on the ATT, Cingular and T-Mobile wireless services. They can also be downloaded through most carriers around the world.) But he said he thought that the project, which has no advertising or publicity campaign, would probably increase in popularity as word spreads among street-art devotees, many of whom comb city streets looking for and photographing examples of their favorite artists’ work.

Mr. Schiller said he was concerned that some of the artists involved might feel their work would lose much of its power if it was digitized and translated to a tiny screen. But he said he also considered the project an outgrowth of the traditions of street art, which has always been shown, shared and appreciated in unorthodox ways.

At least one artist involved, Patrick McNeil, a member of the New York street-art collective Faile, said he also saw cellphones, particularly as they include more sophisticated video screens, as a new frontier in art.

“I think it’s just the nature of the way things are going,” said Mr. McNeil, whose three-member collective has designed album covers and performs consulting work for a tennis shoe company. “Most people involved in this type of urban art and media already have Web sites, so it’s not really all that different.”

But Mr. McNeil did say that knowing what he knows about most things involving profits in the art world, he did not plan to start counting his money from the cellphone project just yet. “At the end of the day,” he said, “I don’t know why people would buy or download an image when you can just go out and photograph it on the street. I definitely don’t have any expectations about income from this. I guess I just think about it as a fun little experiment.”

“I know we do have a following,” he added. “But I’m not too sure about this. Maybe in Japan it’s going to be a big thing.”