After one night in Rome, I was nervous no more. There were a ton of artists selling tons of art. I was like a kid in a candy store.
We did our best to get the artists to come to our hotels to sell the art. The reason was safety. Europe is a very safe place to go. You can walk around the streets at any time of the day or night and not feel at all afraid. However, no city is safe is you are seen handing out thousands of dollars in traveler's checks to people selling items on the street.
For the most part, the artists did come to the hotels. What was wonderful about that was that street artists always have two groups of paintings. They have those pieces they sell to tourists and those pieces they paint because they love to paint. When the artists came to the hotel, the brought their entire portfolio and we had the pick of the bunch. We saw it all and loved it all. My wife made all the purchases. My job was to pay, keep track of our money, and tell her she had purchased great stuff. That was easy. She had.
A few of the artists wouldn't come to the hotel, so we did actually have to make our deals right there on the street. When that happened, we didn't hang around long. We paid for the paintings, walked right to a taxi stop and went back to the hotel. Once night in Rome, we made three buys and took three taxi rides home.
The artists in Paris and London wouldn't even take our traveler's checks. The fee they had to pay made taking the checks unprofitable. We had to use a credit card. Yes - street artists now take credit cards.
I was pick-pocketed in Rome. Believe it or not, we caught the guy as he was walking away and we got the wallet back, but not before my wife slapped him. Really. People cheered. I'm 6' 4", 240 pounds and my wife's the one who strikes him. Go figure.
We had budgeted to ship a box of art home from each if the five cities. We did ship one box from Rome and one from Florence. Both boxes ran into all kinds of trouble with Italian customs. We had to do a lot of paper signing and invoice creation before the Italian authorities were satisfied that what we were shipping was really street art and not works of masters. You can probably understand why someone in Italy might be interested if I was somehow shipping home a Van Gogh.
The experience was frustrating and very time consuming. We decided that once in Venice, we would simply carry all of the art work home with us and take our chances with U.S. customs. We ended up buying two suitcases to get it all home. They weren't happy at London's Gatwick airport when we checked four suitcases filled with art. Art gets heavy, you know.
In Atlanta we pulled our suitcases up to the customs agent and had to lay them all bare before him. We provided as many receipts as we had and he was satisfied that what we had was art. He waved us through.
We had a total of 623 paintings from 38 artists. You can see art and meet the artists on StreetArtist.com
There is no duty charged on original art imported in the U.S. We walked right through and went to T.G.I Friday's for lunch.