A student of art history and economics, Bettina Huang wanted to work in the art world. However, when the native New Yorker got her dream job at Christie’s, working on contemporary art auctions, she was disappointed.
“The traditional art industry was very steeped in relationships and elitism, and a place that was averse to innovation,” says Huang. “It was…contrary to what matters to me.”
Huang, 38, went to business school thinking she would never work in art again and spent the next 10 years in e-commerce start-ups. “I realized that we were selling furniture and design objects to young wealthy aesthetic people. who could buy art, but weren’t doing it and wouldn’t do it through the traditional means of building relationships with gallerists or bidding at auctions,” she says. “So…I started planning what it would take to create the right experience to get them to feel excited about the art and buy it.”
These ideas turned into the art shopping site Platform, which Huang launched to the public in May 2021. At the beginning of each month, Platform offers a different selection of limited-time artworks on their online marketplace , chosen in partnership with the international gallery David Zwirner and a rotating list of independent galleries.
“Instead of putting the behaviors of the art world online, we’ve created an experience that’s something like Net-a-Porter or Farfetch, where everything is extremely edited and highly sought after, and then we make it easy to buy “, she says. . “The art is amazing to look at, it’s cheap, it’s relevant to the world we live in, and artists are usually so enthusiastic about working with us that they create new work just for Platform , even though they have waiting lists. Getting this kind of quality inventory is unheard of for any site.
Each month, Platform features artwork from 24 different artists and 12 different partner galleries, “so the list is constantly changing,” says Huang. Some personal favorites include American artist Nathaniel Robinson and Chinese-Irish artist Jingze Du. As Robinson painted scenes of everyday life – “like lemon wedges on a plate, boxing gloves on a table, an apple core with a plastic bag” – Du painted “the stretched and exaggerated “, says Huang.
Danielle Orchard, meanwhile, “is an artist whose trajectory really excites me,” she says. “She paints cubist-looking portraits and scenes, but the colors and subjects are very much of our time.” Orchard’s works were sold on Platform in October last year for around US$4,000. The following month, one of his works sold at auction for over US$200,000. “It was such a cool example of our ability to identify the next big artists,” Huang said.
Recent work includes Zach Bruder’s
Nyak (Dawn) for $8,200; Jaqueline cedar lift for $4,500; by Seth Bogart
Female facial expressions for US$3,500.
Shipping is available internationally, and artwork prices range from US$150 for a 44-page saddle-stitched zine to over US$15,000.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
“In the traditional art world, social status is commonplace,” says Huang. “Purchasing power is part of social status, but there are also factors like if you come from an influential family, if you have a job that gives you influence, if you are a friend of the gallery owner at who you’re buying from, etc. So when you’re at a gallery, art fair, or other traditional place to buy and sell art, you have to pass this elitist and highly subjective bar first.
Increasing diversity is also essential for the platform. “When we select the art to offer, we base it solely on the strength of the artwork, but one of the factors that determines the strength of an artwork is its relevance to the world in which we live,” says Huang. “Because of that, we end up offering a much more diverse group of artists than what you see in almost any other arts business.”
The platform also donates money to charity through dedicated sales. Last year, sales of prints of the popular Silence=Death design benefited Visual AIDS, an arts organization committed to AIDS awareness. Most recently, prints by artists Marcel Dzama and Ebecho Muslimova benefited the National Ukrainian Women’s League of America, the oldest Ukrainian women’s organization in the United States.
The platform’s business model is itself sustainable. “If a gallery were selling through an art fair, they would send the works to the art fair. If the works sell at the art fair, they are shipped to the client, and if the works don’t sell, they are sent back to the gallery,” explains Huang. “Our model streamlines the process to eliminate unnecessary shipping and the use of packaging materials. We also pay to offset the carbon footprint of every order shipped to a customer, which is an initiative of questionable value, but we try everything we can.
“We have clients from all over the world, and we are working to grow so that our partner galleries also better represent the world,” says Huang. Target markets include the UK, Hong Kong, Seoul, Mexico City, Brussels and elsewhere.