By Liz Warren-Pederson
Back in 2006, UA students Alex Farkas, Stephen Tanenbaum, and Greg Rosborough connected in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program around a fundamental problem they identified in the art business: how can promising young artists connect with potential buyers?
“Our solution was Ugallery.com, a virtual gallery that does that and more,” said gallery director Farkas. “Upon graduation, we decided to take the leap and turn Ugallery into a reality.”
They pooled their case competition winnings and collective savings and launched the website, which over the last four years has grown considerably. In 2007, they launched an office in New York, and in March of this year, opened a second office in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Looking back at Ugallery’s journey to date, Farkas singles out two important milestones. “First, the day we finalized our first round of outside investment,” he said. “Stephen and I felt like we were walking on air. We had been working on Ugallery for a year and a half and it was amazing validation of our efforts and so exciting to imagine where the business would go.”
Second, Farkas said that at the 2009 Affordable Art Fair in New York, Ugallery sold a five-by-six foot painting to the chairman of the American Federation of Arts, one of the oldest arts organizations in the country. “We spoke at length with the chairman. He and his wife loved the artist’s work and the concept of Ugallery,” Farkas said. “It was a wonderful experience to add such a renowned art world figure to our clientele.”
Ugallery has weathered the challenge of the economic recession by finding ways to help buyers afford great art. “This year, we launched our Paperwork and Daily Deal sites to target budget-conscious clients,” Farkas said. Paperwork is a collection of limited-edition art prints starting at $20, and the Daily Deal features one original artwork per day at a substantial discount. “Our sales are way up from last year, our workforce has grown substantially, and we are representing a really impressive group of emerging artists,” he continued.
The competitive landscape has also changed considerably since 2006. “Unlike many of our competitors, we are a curated gallery, which I think our clients appreciate,” Farkas said. “Each piece displayed on Ugallery is reviewed by a number of curators, ensuring the quality of every single artwork and artist we represent.”
The Ugallery team is focused on continual innovation. “We regularly revisit our mission of making art more accessible and supporting emerging artists,” Farkas said. “To that end, we are always looking to offer more artwork and choices to our patrons and fill additional niches in the online art market. We are also working to host more physical exhibitions in cities across the country, so be on the lookout for us!”