The Business I Did Not Start
Posters of his work sold all over the world. Signed prints commanded over $1,000 each. Original paintings were out of sight.
On a whim, I decided to look into hiring Neiman to create a curling painting from which signed prints could be made.
I found LeRoy Neiman's address and wrote him a letter asking if he were interested at all in the sport of curling. If so, would he consider painting a curling match and having signed prints made up for sale.
To my astonishment, I received a cordial letter back (now lost, alas) from Neiman who said he loved the idea. He had grown up in St. Paul, Minn., lived near a curling club and saw a lot of it as a boy.
If I were interested in pursuing this, Neiman wrote, I should get in touch with Knoedler in New York. He gave me the name of the person to contact.
Knoedler—The Art World's Summit
Founded in 1846, Knoedler was New York's premier gallery. Over the years it had sold paintings by Vermeer, Raphael and Rembrandt to the world's greatest collectors: John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan and Henry Clay Frick. Institutional buyers included the Louvre, Metropolitan Museum of Art and London's Tate Gallery.
For a junk mail copywriter in Stamford, Conn., talking to these people was heady stuff. The Knoedler rep was most cordial and sent me the details:
- Hire Neiman to paint an original curling scene: $25,000. Neiman could choose the venue and event. I had no input.
- Knoedler would then print a limited edition lithograph (or serigraph) that Neiman would sign.
- My cost: $325 for each of the signed limited edition of 300 prints.
- I owned them and could sell them for whatever price I could get.
- Knoedler would warehouse them send them out on a drop-ship basis.
- Total cost for the painting plus 300 signed lithographs: $122,500.
Minimum markup for a successful direct marketing promotion was 5x. Ideally it should be 9x or more.