Rather than the typical price structure that brick-and-mortar galleries employ—with 50 percent of proceeds going to the artist, and 50 percent going to the dealer—Hamamoto arranged a sort of “rental” fee, agreeing on individual terms with each bodega owner. “This whole concept was new to them,” he admitted, “and I don’t think they wanted to take on the risk of a work not selling.”
In contrast to the “bright lights and white walls” of a traditional gallery, Hamamoto hoped that his camo-style paintings would “blend into the environment” of the stores, with their racks of products, freezer displays, and colorful reels of lottery tickets. “I was trying to have a commentary on how you can display art in a place where it’s not necessarily the main focus,” he said.
I met up with Hamamoto the day he installed his work at the five downtown bodegas. We started at Fresh Food Market Deli & Grocery, on the corner of Canal Street and West Broadway. There, one of the price-sticker paintings is hanging in the front window, next to a neon Coors Light sign and above a freezer stocked with King Cone ice cream treats. Inside, a smaller piece looms brightly above a shelf of Nilla wafers and cocktail peanuts. I asked the store manager, Freddie Jordan, what he thinks about the project. “It’s great, it’s something amazing,” he said. “You have to have a big imagination. I’ve worked with a price gun, I’ve been in this business for over 14 years—it never crossed my mind.”