The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 32: ASSASSINATION: Alex Farkas, Co-Director and Curator of Ugallery

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Photograph of Alex Farkas and his Ugallery partners Greg Rosborough and Stephen Tanenbaum. Courtesy of Green Valley News.
Screenshot of Ugallery website. Courtesy of Ugallery.

Ugallery, an online gallery based out of Scottsdale in Arizona as well as New York City, has become one of the most prominent places, along with NYAXE and Collegeartonline, to find artwork by emerging artists at affordable prices. With its appealing store design and curated picks by Lisa Hunter, this gallery has become a respected force in the dynamics of the art market. I had a chance to speak with my friend Alex Farkas, who is one of the founders of this wonderful venture that is attending the prestigious Affordable Art Fair in New York City this summer.

If you have any questions about artwork at Ugallery, feel free to contact the space at sales@ugallery.com or at (888) 402-1722.

So now to the feature presentation you all been waiting for by THE ART ASSASSIN’s account of the “assassination”:

qi peng: How did you have a chance to meet with your business partners Greg Rosborough and Stephen Tanenbaum and get the idea for Ugallery?  What is the business’ distinguished features that will separate your endeavor from other online galleries, specifically ones that feature collegiate art such as Collegeartonline (CAO)?

Alex Farkas: I met Greg and Stephen in the entrepreneurship program at The University of Arizona.  I was also studying art history and sculpture.  I saw my friends from the art school struggling to get their work shown and I wanted to help.  Greg and Stephen shared my interest, so for our class project we wrote a business plan for an online art gallery for student artists.  The business school really liked our idea and sent us to two business plan case competitions.  We won both of them, which gave us the confidence, and a little bit of money, to launch Ugallery once we graduated.

We are the pioneers of the collegiate online art gallery, and we work hard every day to stay one step ahead of anyone new that enters our field.  We have a tremendous group of art professionals and curators, business advisors, and web programmers to guide us in continuously improving the services we offer our patrons and artists.

qi peng: Who are your favorite artists? How does personal taste enter into the curating for Ugallery?

Alex Farkas: Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my uncle’s studio.  He is a metal and wood sculptor, and he introduced me to the likes of Julio Gonzalez, Henry Moore, David Smith, and Isamu Noguchi.  I have carried a passion for sculpture and these artists ever since.  I also really like Alexander Calder’s wire work, especially his circus performers, and in the last couple of years, I have started to follow Olafur Eliasson.  His use of light and water are incredible.

When it comes to curating for Ugallery, I try to set my personal tastes aside to a certain degree.  Curating such a large gallery requires a delicate balance.  We want to offer many different people, with a large range of tastes, the opportunity to find the art they are looking for.  At the same time, we want our collection to be cohesive and have work that compliments each other.  So, when I review art, I try to look at it partly from a neutral point of view, examining the quality of the concept, what the artist is working to achieve, and the actual finished piece, whether I like it or not.  I also rely partially on my personal taste to help guide the overall direction of our portfolio.

qi peng: What are your experiences working within the contemporary art world, both primary and secondary markets? How will these experiences influence the way that Ugallery will function and interact with young, emerging artists?

Alex Farkas: I was raised behind the counter of my mother’s art and design gallery.  She worked with a huge number of local emerging artists during her 30 plus years in business.  I watched as she developed good relationships with each one of them, educated them about what she knew about the business and the avenues she thought they should pursue, and worked to promote them individually.  I believe these are all good practices.  We work hard to run Ugallery with the same principles as a physical gallery.  I like to get to know each one of our artists.  I think we learn a great deal from each other.  We also continuously work to promote each artist to specific media and collectors.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for recent art school graduates from either BFA or MFA programs? What are the barriers to entry for student artists to make it to the big leagues of the competitive art world?

Alex Farkas: The first step is getting organized.  Put together a digital portfolio and a printed version of your art including your exhibition history, any notable acquisitions of your work, and a current artist statement/bio.  Make sure the images of your work are large, in-focus, and cropped.  One of the biggest barriers you will face is the common conception that emerging artists are unorganized and don’t know the ways of the business yet.  Galleries don’t want to spend their precious time teaching you.  If you walk into a gallery with a stack of paintings underneath your arm, you are not going to get anywhere.  The next step is doing your research and finding galleries where your art fits their program.  Visit openings and talk to directors; you don’t have to pitch your work on the first meeting, get to know them and the art they represent.  I would also like to note, presentation is half of the battle, so comb your hair and put on a clean shirt.  If you approach a gallery with a good-looking portfolio (on disk and paper), a clean shirt, and a good handshake, you’re that much closer to hanging your art on their walls.

qi peng: What are some of the future plans for Ugallery and its future expansion? How will the website interact with both beginning and experienced collectors?

Alex Farkas: We are always working to represent more artists, attract new and notable collectors, and improve the function of the website.  One thing I think we do very well is continuously evaluate the direction of the gallery and develop new strategies to achieve these goals.  Ideally, the website offers both first-time and experienced collectors a place to find the artwork they are looking for, and treasures they had no idea they would discover.

qi peng: What are some of the difficulties for online galleries to gain respect from art critics, such as the ones who write for the New York Times, ArtForum, ARTnews, Art in America, etc.? How will Ugallery be able to align with being able to find artists who are going to be future Schnabels or Rosson Crows and discover their full potential?

Alex Farkas: Up until now, I think online galleries have had a tough time attracting attention from notable art critics because they have not really been galleries.  Most do not curate their collections or develop relationships with their artists and patrons, they are just like parking spaces for artists.  As we continue to develop our reputation and make good connections, we will be increasingly able to promote our artists to their full potential and attract new rising stars.

qi peng: Will Ugallery also focus on corporate and/or museum placement? How will its international reach be an advantage during the times of economic recession?

Alex Farkas: We already participate in corporate placement.  In terms of international clientele, this is a definite advantage of operating an online gallery.  We have clients throughout Europe and as far away as Hong Kong.  Having a broad customer base, especially in times of recession, is important.

qi peng: What is your dream physical exhibition space be like?

Alex Farkas: A large open space with high ceilings, white walls, and lots of natural light.  A place that lets the art speak for itself.

qi peng: What is the Scottsdale art market like? How do you see it in context of the overall international art market? Is there competition and/or cooperation with other art markets, say, in New York City or Los Angeles? If so or not, why?

Alex Farkas: There is a wonderful, vibrant art scene in Scottsdale, just as there is in many other cities across the country.  In general, I do not believe these different markets view each other as competition.  The type of work you find in Scottsdale is much different than what you would find in say, Portland, which is different from Boston, and so forth.  There is a certain local focus to each, where galleries connect local artists with local patrons.  When we participate in international art fairs, I feel as though galleries take a real interest in their counterparts and what is happening in the different markets.

qi peng: What are some fun, future adventures that you, Stephen, and Greg are hoping to embark on?

Alex Farkas: The Venice Biennial, Art Basel, Art Beijing, Art Dubai, Art Fair Tokyo…  but seriously, Ugallery will be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in New York, May 7th through the 10th.

qi peng: Do you think that economic recession has a strong impact on the way art is sold and viewed? If so, how?

Alex Farkas: I think the recession has impacted different parts of the art market differently.  Our business has remained strong and continues to grow while I read about many higher end galleries that are struggling.  Until recently the art market was inflated.  Now people are ether looking for a great deal on an up-and-coming artist or they are holding out to spend their money on a truly exceptional piece.

qi peng: What is your viewpoint on art magazines, the art press, and online art blogs such as Art F-g City or Art Forum? How do you think that emerging artists will engage in the dialogue with established press sources through Ugallery?

Alex Farkas: Art magazines and blogs are an important part of promoting emerging artists.  They are well-respected and have a large audience.  Over the past few years, we have worked to develop relationships with top publications and blogs.  We also have an incredible PR team that is continually generating new contacts with magazines, newspapers, television, and online media.  It can be challenging for emerging artists to make these connections alone, another reason why we created Ugallery.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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