Andy Warhol and Scalability

Andy Warhol and ScalabilityAndy Warhol introduced the idea of modern pop art, where a piece of artwork could be replicated over and over again using silk screening techniques. In a way, Andy Warhol made art scalable, but only up to a point.

There’s a reason why couture dresses sell more than the ones you find at a department store. There’s a reason why an original Picasso can sell for millions of dollars at auction, where as the poster version only sells for a few bucks at a gift shop. There’s a reason why a t-shirt actually singed by a celebrity is worth more than a graphic reprint of the same signature. They are unique, rare, and of high quality.

Rarity and uniqueness is not scalable. You can always create a template or mold in which to replicate your masterpiece, but it will never the as good as the original, nor will be as valued. If you’re a sculptor can you really say that your own hands created your sculptures if you have them mass-produced? If you’re a painter, can you really sell poster reprints of your paintings for the same price as the canvas prints?

If you favor uniqueness, and want your hands in every aspect of the creation of your work, then drop scalability, and let uniqueness be your marketing positioning. There is nothing wrong with either strategy, but it is rare to mass market uniqueness. You could always created limited editions of your work, but even that is limited scalability. Even with Andy Warhol, the original versions of his work are more valuable than your college poster reprints.

In order to make something scalable, you have to be willing to let go of a little control, and lot if the uniqueness in order to make it work.

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