Before neo pop artist and former Andy Warhol assistant Steve Kaufman died in 2010 at the age of 49, he willed his art and name rights to his longtime friend Diana Vachier, of Long Beach. Through two businesses, American Pop Art Inc. and Steve Kaufman Art Licensing LLC, she promotes and sells his art to collectors, licenses it to companies, and loans pieces to museums.
Her supply includes more than 6,000 of his pieces -- all limited-edition silk screens on canvas, hand-embellished with oils -- priced from $900 to $30,000. She and a business partner in Italy split the sales, donating a percentage of the profits to Uniondale's STRONG Youth program, which helps kids in gangs -- a cause Kaufman helped by giving gang kids jobs in his Los Angeles studio.
Last month, Vachier secured three major deals: licensing a Mozart image for use on wine labels to the Italian winery Vini Casolari; licensing other pieces for use on art tiles by the Italian tile company Settecento; and arranging for four Kaufman pieces to be shown in an exhibition commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the Coca-Cola bottle.
How do you market?
It's Facebook, it's Twitter, it's LinkedIn, it's using all the social media. . . . Also, the [museum] shows bring in a tremendous amount of publicity. We put a tremendous amount of money out of our own pocket into the exhibitions. The return is the licensing, because if we didn't do these events, the man who owns the winery wouldn't have ever seen the work.
What type of collectors do you target?
Everyone. . . . But 90 percent of the people that buy the art are men, from [ages] 24 to 60. And Europeans love pop art. This country has been seeing pop art since the '60s. In Europe they have the old great masters. So now pop art is introduced, and it's color and it's excitement, it's different.
How is the market for fine art in general?
Art is a luxury item. It's a hard market now. But there are people that will buy no matter what, because it's an investment. Instead of buying stock people buy art. And art collectors study the up-and-coming artists, the artists whose work is going up in value.
What goals are on your horizon?
To go strong on licensing, market his licensing. I would love to see his images on high-end clothing, high-end pocketbooks -- but no mass market. And my most important goal right now is getting his art into Long Island museums: the Heckscher Museum of Art, the Nassau County Museum of Art, the major art shows on Long Island.
NAME: Diana Vachier, president of American Pop Art Inc. and Steve Kaufman Art Licensing LLC of Long Beach
WHAT THEY DO: Promote, sell and license the art of the late neo pop artist Steve Kaufman (1960-2010)
EMPLOYEES: 2 full time -- 1 on Long Island, 1 in Montana; 5 part time -- 2 on Long Island, 3 in Europe