When San Francisco-based UGallery came on the scene in 2006, co-founders Stephen Tanenbaum and Alex Farkas purposely targeted a demographic new to serious art: people who were ready to graduate from posters taped on their walls to unique pieces to decorate their homes and offices, but weren’t necessarily going to auction houses and storing their art in warehouses.
Buying original artwork online used to be unheard of—to pick up a new piece of art collectors usually had to head to brick-and-mortar galleries and auctions, or settle for buying prints or crafts from online stores like Art.com, Posters.com, or Etsy. But in recent years, several companies have built out online galleries that let consumers buy paintings, photographs and sculptures from afar, making it easier than ever for would-be collectors to hang originals on their walls.
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In fact, there are about 300 online sellers of original art globally, according to a recent report from Deloitte. Companies like Artsy and Artspace target the really high-end buyers; UGallery aims to connect up-and-coming artists with art enthusiasts who might not have known owning original artwork was possible for them. “Artsy and Artspace are doing great things, but they’re a liaison for the galleries,” Tanenbaum says. “They’re giving galleries a place to exhibit and sell art work, whereas UGallery is the gallery.”
UGallery works directly with artists, and prides itself on the personal relationships it has with them. Some of their artists have never sold before, and need help figuring out pricing and which pieces should be displayed on the site. “A big part of our job is to work with the artists to better understand how to grow their careers at the right pace,” Tanenbaum says.
The impetus to create an online gallery actually came from their artist friends. Farkas, the son of an Arizona gallery owner, and Tanenbaum were classmates in the entrepreneurship program at the University of Arizona when they realized there was a problem they could help solve: to give their classmates and other recent grads a credible place to exhibit and sell their artwork. Galleries have traditionally focused on artists who have already made names for themselves, and newcomers were sometimes relegated to art and craft fairs.
”The inspiration behind launching was to give these artists a place to exhibit and sell online, but also to give people access to original artwork at an accessible price point,” Tanenbaum says.
And unlike brick-and-mortar galleries, a website doesn’t come with any pressure to buy, so consumers can browse as much as they want, and search for pieces within their price range (they even have a section dedicated to art under $400).
“When we launched in 2006, there were limited means to find original artwork if you wanted it, but you weren’t a millionaire,” Tanenbaum says. “Over the years we have been able to grow and offer that to clients, new collectors and seasoned collectors alike.”
There’s also a search function, so buyers can narrow their browsing to a certain medium, style, size, artist, etc., and a virtual wall that users can customize to see what a piece might look like on their own walls once it arrives.
Today, seven years after it was founded, the company represents more than 500 artists across North America, photographers around the world, and has shipped art to more than 30 countries. UGallery offers prints for as little as … Next Page »
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