Gallery Q & A with UGallery
Alex Farkas of UGallery, on running one of the first curated online galleries.
Gallery Name: UGallery, San Francisco, CA
Name: Alex Farkas
Title: Director and Co-Founder
Makeda Hinds: What type of art does your gallery focus on?
Alex Farkas: UGallery is a curated online art gallery focusing on emerging and mid-career artists from across the United States. We show a diverse collection of Contemporary Art, including Impressionist, Expressionist, Pop, and Modern artworks. Stylistically, you might compare us to browsing the different floors of the MoMA.
MH: How many artists do you represent? Can you tell us about one or two of them?
AF: We represent 500 artists. We work closely with each of our artists, so it’s hard to talk about just two of them! I personally collect the work of Harris Johnson and Lana Williams. Harris received his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2009 and currently works in a style that he describes as “a cartoon of his everyday life.” He brings a rare sense of unabashed humor and honesty to today’s art world. I often feel as though he’s painting what I’m thinking. Lana recently received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She has an unbelievable sense of color, and her most recent pieces breathe new life into action painting. I enjoy watching Lana continuously reinvent herself.
MH: How do you select the artists you represent?
AF: We consider many factors when looking for new artists, including what level the artist is at in their stylistic development, how committed they are to their art career, and if their work fits with the focus of our gallery. But more than anything, we look for art that gives us an emotional reaction. Does it make us smile? Laugh? Be quiet? Introspective? Remind us of our own lives? When we see the right art, we just know.
MH: Do you have any development plans for your gallery—new markets, expansions, new hires, etc.?
AF: We just launched two exciting new features on our website, a gift registry and a portal for designers and corporate clients. With our registry, you can ask for art for your special occasions! Your friends and family can buy the pieces on your list, contribute to a piece (“group gifting”), or buy you a gift card. Our designer portal offers professional clients easy-to-use tools and incentives for purchasing art. We provide designers with personal project consultation and the ability to create special project boards for their clients.
MH: What was your biggest sale in the past year?
AF: We greatly enjoyed decorating the entire BST Accounting office in Manhattan. They needed a number of artworks and had a very set budget. We put together a wonderful collection of regional painters, photographs, and limited edition prints to enliven their space.
MH: Have you noticed a trend in the origin of your buyers?
AF: We have clients in nearly every state and 35 countries around the world. That said, a large number of our buyers live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area. We are also seeing a rise in art sales in Texas.
MH: What is your next important show? Tell us why we should come.
AF: Even better than waiting until our next show, we release new art on our website every Thursday at 1 PM (EST). It’s a fun weekly event where you can browse several galleries’ worth of new art right from the comfort of your home. Each week, we introduce new artists as well as new work from our most popular creators.
MH: Do you think attending art fairs is crucial to gaining exposure? If so, which ones?
AF: UGallery has experienced huge success exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in New York City. We have shown at the spring fair for the past six years and continue to look forward to the show each year. Through the fair, we’ve established and maintained relationships with some of our best clients. Since UGallery is primarily based online, art fairs like the Affordable Art Fair give us a great opportunity to meet with our clients in person.
MH: Have you noticed any noteworthy changes in the gallery market?
AF: I see the online art market growing quickly. Our business continues to expand in leaps and bounds. In the past two years, a number of new online art startups have also entered the market. People are more comfortable than ever purchasing products based on images, and the Internet offers unparalleled selection and convenience. I don’t think online galleries will replace traditional brick-and-mortar spaces. Instead, I see many more people owning original art who would not have had the option in the past, or who would have been intimidated by the gallery world.
MH: Has the Internet dramatically changed the dynamic of your business?
AF: The Internet is the heart of our business. We started UGallery in 2006 as one of the first curated online art galleries, and we’ve witnessed a huge shift in the online art space. Every year, we add many new talented artists to our portfolio and reach new clients across the globe.
MH: What do you use artnet for? How frequently do you use it?
AF: artnet is an incredible resource for discovery and information. It’s one of the first places I go when I’m interested in learning more about an artist I am unfamiliar with.
MH: What advice can you give to a first-time collector?
AF: In my opinion, the hardest decision you will ever make as an art buyer is picking your first piece. It can be very difficult to trust your taste and judgment the first time. I often give new buyers two pieces of advice. First, buy what you love and try to disregard any speculation over future resale value. I can almost guarantee you that the first few artworks you buy will not be “investment” pieces. Your first original artwork should just be something you enjoy seeing on your wall. Second, try not to put pressure on yourself about loving the art for the rest of your life. Your taste in art will undoubtedly change as you see and purchase more work. It’s okay to buy a piece and then eventually decide it’s not quite your taste anymore. Those pieces make excellent gifts for friends and family looking for their first artwork!
MH: Would you recommend a current art event to go to—i.e. a gallery show, auction, museum exhibition, etc.?
AF: I’m dying to see the James Turrell (American, b.1943) shows at the Guggenheim and LACMA this summer!
MH: How often do you attend art events?
AF: Constantly! I go look at art on a weekly basis. My family jokes that I’m obsessed. Maybe I am; I can’t help myself.
MH: If you could have dinner with any three artists, living or dead, who would you choose?
AF: This question is nearly impossible for me to answer; there are so many people that come to mind! I’ll go with some of my first and enduring loves in art history: Jacques–Louis David (French, 1748–1825), Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890–1918), and Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973).
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