Lately, the art world has been awash in technology-driven art start-ups, including well-funded ventures like 20×200, Artsy, and Artspace that dominate headlines by providing access to buying (or at least window shopping) art to a wider audience than blue-chip collectors. Making the gallery experience less intimidating is all well and good, but what about the nice parts of going to a small, hip art space and being able to pick out a piece that you might be able to afford? The good news is that a pair of independent, effortlessly cool online art galleries have recently launched to provide engaged collectors with the chance to follow specific curatorial voices.
Alexis Hyde, the Los Angeles-based blogger behind Hyde or Die, has created Hyde or Buy, an e-commerce site that features emerging artists and slants heavily (so far, at least) towards photography. For the site’s launch, Fette Sans has contributed a moody, black-and-white doubled landscape that plays with the idea of multiplicity and perspective ($400). Katherine Finkelstein’s “Pink and Gold” ($250) is a heavily saturated shot of a golden-hued chair set against a wall glowing with reflected light.
Hyde started the site as a way to feature the work of young artists she admired who don’t yet “have a venue to be selling” their work, she told Hyperallergic in an email. It’s a way of supporting artists without the complexities of gallery representation — ”I don’t have an exclusive deal with anyone,” she wrote.
The advantage of Hyde or Die is that it’s not overwhelming. It doesn’t need to offer the same scale or Hyde won’t have more than a few pieces up from each artist at any one time. “While I love other art buying sites I get so easily overwhelmed and lost,” Hyde explained. “I wanted to be a nice alternative, a place where you could easily peruse and go back to what you were looking at without falling down some Wikipedia-like k-hole.”
Minor Asset, an e-commerce site and online gallery was started by No Smarties’s Andrew Haarsager (the two names are anagrams). (Full disclosure: this writer contributed copy to Minor Asset.) The site sports the snarky, somewhat literal, tagline of “Originals & editions from no one you know.” Following that guideline, Minor Asset highlights emerging, Brooklyn-based artists and designers, some of whom may actually be familiar to long-time Hyperallergic readers.
The online gallery shows artwork in a range of media and formats, stretching from Sarah Faux’s cut-paper paintings that trace out fragments of bodies and limbs ($900) to Haarsager’s own constructivist lamps ($225), made from cathode bulbs. Kim Westfall’s microscopically hallucinogenic book False Entries is available for $19. Prices stretch into the thousands of dollars, higher than the standard at Hyde or Die, but Minor Asset presents one-of-a-kind pieces.
Haarsager is working to connect emerging artist he is passionate about with a new audience — “there is a community of collectors who want to be connected with them,” he wrote in an email to Hyperallergic. Social media helps artists to promote themselves without need of an institution, but “reblogs don’t really correlate with sales,” Haarsager wrote. “There’s not a very natural-feeling mechanism to convert that interest into revenue for the artist, so Minor Asset was founded to help bridge that gap.”
There are also advantages to not having the brick-and-mortar burdens of a physical gallery. 80% of Minor Asset’s sales prices go to the artist, rather than the traditional 50/50 dealer/artist split. “That’s something that’s only possible because of the low overhead associated with a web store,” Haarsager explained.
The two sites have in common a basic concern for finding a way for young artists to keeping creating their work. It’s not about developing a dealer personality cult or breaking into the Chelsea scene, but helping fans connect to artists they love, or don’t yet know they love. As Alexis Hyde wrote, “I really want to be a stepping stool in the story of their artistic success.”