You would be forgiven for dismissing the world of contemporary art as clubby and rarefied. It so often is. And when it comes to the artists represented in its upper echelons—and the collectors who trade on their names—there is work to do across the industry to help raise the profiles and access of women and people of color.
There’s also, of course, the issue of gatekeeping: Often, jumping into the fray as a new collector can be prohibitively intimidating, with the world of brick-and-mortar galleries and stalwart auction houses having earned a justifiable reputation for being difficult to navigate without some sort of help, especially for first-time art buyers.
Uprise Art, a five-year-old, New York City-based online art gallery, aims to help alleviate those pressures, and democratize the buying process. For Uprise, both new art collector Jamal and seasoned, discerning buyer/CEO Jane should be able to find quality art at any price point with an easy-to-use website that will surface artists they may not already be familiar with.
"The idea was to make collecting art more accessible and enjoyable," the company’s founder, Tze Chun, told Curbed in a recent phone interview. "Going to galleries in Chelsea isn’t the most flexible or welcoming way [to get introduced to art]," she adds.
So, how does Uprise Art help get the word out about its services and start breaking down those barriers? For one, not all of the art it sells is out of reach for a middle-class consumer: The site has a robust "Art Under $800" section, where work can run you as little as $70. Then there’s its payment plan system for larger purchases, which is available to all, not just select clients. "People can buy art over 10 or 20 months," Chun explains. "It’s not revolutionary, but usually galleries are doing this with [only] their best clients and the art is delivered at the end of the plan." Not so for Uprise, where you can get the art, ready to hang, right away.
Uprise also offers consultation services to buyers at any level: Have your eye on a $130 one-of-a-kind work, but not sure if it’s right for you or your space? Uprise can help you figure it all out. Additionally, the company often partners with Homepolish, the New York-based interior design upstart that provides consultation and decorating services. Good art, after all, is often a sticking point for clients, for whom art purchasing is perhaps more daunting than other aspects of a revamp, Chun explains.
Uprise has also been partnering with developers and business owners, helping get quality art in both offices and the lobbies and amenities areas of residential buildings. When tenants’ leases are up for renewal, notes Chun, art is one way many lessors decide to make public spaces in condos and other rental buildings feel new and exciting. It’s an added enticement to get renters to stay.
"Art is one of the last industries to move online," says Chun. "And there are a lot of challenges [there]. It’s much more like matchmaking than traditional e-commerce," adds Chun. "A lot of companies treat art the way they treat wall decor, or like a luxury good. With art, it’s about a personal connection and an emotional one."