How long have you been selling on the street?
Joe: Four, almost five years.
Dan: I've been on Prince Street about three and a half years, and before that I was in Union Square for two years.
Can you talk a bit about your work?
Joe: My paintings are a type of Modernist painting, and I show them in the street because I like the idea of showing them to a very large crowd of people. I'm about to do my second show in Switzerland with a buyer for the Bank of Switzerland's art collection, who found me outside of a Ralph Lauren.
Dan: I'm a street artist, I do paintings and designer streetwear. I got into art through screenprinting, and I took a very atypical route to what I'm doing now. I started by selling tee shirts out here on the street. Since I didn't have the proper licensing, I kept getting in trouble with the police, so I had to switch to painting. I'm now working back into streetwear, and that's where I'm eventually headed.
Is that because the "free speech" law only applies to "art" rather than T-shirts?
Dan: That's exactly it. Even if you create artwork, once you put it on an item it's no longer considered artwork.
What are some challenges to selling in the street?
Joe: There's always been people who want this shit outta here as fast as they can, and one of the ways in which they've done it is by putting the Citi bikes here. They're part of big money, and street artists don't fit into that. I see why they feel that way, but I think they should remember why their building's worth five million dollars. There's always been artists in this neighborhood
Do you find there's a stigma against selling in the street?
Joe: There are three types of people: some don't pay attention to that and buy art because they like it, and then there are some people that wouldn't look twice at it here, but [would buy] the same painting if it were on a wall on a gallery anywhere in New York.
The ones that buy in Chelsea but will buy here just as fast: that's who I'm here looking for. I'm looking for people who see what my work's about and don't care that it's in the street. And there's a lot of them.
I can see how Dan's work, being a bit more poppy, might be less surprising to find on the street. How do your different aesthetics affect your ability to sell?
Joe: The thing is, I keep my prices a lot lower that some people think I should, and I pretty much sell every piece I make for that reason. I'm not getting a thousand bucks for a painting, although I can in galleries. Out here it's $400, $300, $200, but I sell sometimes 7, 8 paintings while I'm here. I'm not trying to get "Modernist painting"-type of prices.
Dan: But the thing is, Joe's demographic usually have the money to spend. The problem with selling work like mine is that is that my demographic won't spend $200, $300 as easily as somebody in their 50s. This is why streetwear is important for me. They'll spend $20, $30 [on a tee shirt] no problem, but even $150 sounds like a lot for something that will be on their wall. They'd rather have a shirt sometimes.
How do you balance your artistic vision while still trying to make money?
Joe: Well, a friend of a friend was just in the Whitney Biennial, but he does installation work, which is hard to have a market for. Some other guys are way higher level because they're in the Biennial, but they're not getting paid cash money. They're getting recognition. It depends what your intention is.
My studio-mate, for example, would never bring his art out here because it doesn't really go with the idea of museums in his eyes. I've had my collectors tell me, "You need to get out of the street." I have a guy who owns 30 paintings and has invested a lot of money in my career, and he thinks I should get the fuck out of the street.
But he found you in the street, right?
Joe: He found me in front of a frame store in Miami. So he says I should start working on big shows, and he thinks this is degrading for my work. Other people say, "Dude, you're getting paid, and that's good."
Dan: I have a question for Joe. I see the street as a means to an end. I can't say I'll always be dedicated to coming out here. If I was making good money, and I could stay in my house painting and making clothes, I'd probably do that.
Joe: I mean, I'm 47 years old. I don't think I'd want to be out here after 50. But there's a lot of potential here. It's what Andy Warhol says—it's the art of making money—but you can keep integrity in it or you can paint for money. It shows.