Business

UGallery’s founders: Now is the ‘pivotal time’ for online art startups

Above: UGallery cofounders Alex Farkas and Stephen Tanenbaum (L-R)

Image Credit: Christina Farr / VentureBeat
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The online art market is booming, with giants like Google and Amazon scrambling to get into the sector.

Even the traditional art world has come to accept the inevitable. Tech entrepreneurs are now acting as art curators, and serial buyers are keeping a close eye on fine art works sold in digital and physical auctions.

Indeed, a report issued in March by Deloitte and ArtTactic found that “the art world is moving online.” Over 300 online art ventures have launched in the past few years, and at least 71 percent of art collectors have purchased artwork online. This number is expected to rise.

An art exhibit at UGallery's San Francisco office

Above: An art exhibit at UGallery’s San Francisco office

Excitement was in the air at a photography exhibit I attended last night, held at the office of a tech startup, of all places. Entrepreneurs, artists, and collectors were invited to sip wine and mingle at UGallery in San Francisco’s Mission district.

UGallery’s founders were in full celebration mode, having been chosen alongside 150 traditional art galleries to partner with Amazon Art, the recently launched art marketplace from the online retailing giant.

Cofounder Alex Farkas sees Amazon’s latest foray into online art as a “platform,” a means to reach a new market of consumers.

Back in 2006, when the company first launched, it wasn’t evident that the business model would succeed. But the team persevered — Farkas believes the company is on the brink of explosive growth. As we reported, UGallery has experienced year-to-year growth averaging over 62 percent since 2008 and has sold art in over 35 countries.

He may well be right. At both ends of the spectrum — higher-end and mass-market art — online marketplaces are attracting the interest of consumers.

The art world was astounded when an an oil painting by Norman Rockwell sold for $4.85 million on Amazon Art in a matter of minutes.

UGallery, which offers art at more affordable prices, is growing rapidly. Meanwhile, Artsy, which offers art at mid-market prices, has gained brand recognition for new and established buyers.

For artists, this trend offer a new and exciting platform to get noticed.

Farkas personally curates and hunts down art for the site, focusing on students and mid-career artists. Artists can also submit their work — about 10 percent are accepted to ensure consistently high quality.

The goal is to sell this art for as little as $100 — UGallery takes a 50 percent commission. Each artist on UGallery (currently about 500 are featured on the site) have the option to set up a digital portfolio. All the art is sold online, which offers a massive cost-savings to artists.

“We spend half our time coding — and the other half curating,” said Farkas.

Would you buy or sell artwork online? Is this the democratization of art? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 


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