As an art historian and economist, Bettina Huang wanted to work in the art world. However, when the New York native landed her dream job at Christie’s, working at contemporary art auctions, she was disappointed.
“The traditional arts industry was very entrenched in relationships and elitism, and a place reluctant to innovate,” says Huang. “That… felt contrary to what’s important to me.”
Huang, 38, went to business school believing she would never work in art again and spent the next 10 years in e-commerce startups. “I realized that we were selling home furnishings and design objects to young, aesthetically oriented, wealthy people who could buy art, but they didn’t and wouldn’t do it through the traditional avenues of developing relationships with gallery owners or bidding at auctions,” she says. “So…I started outlining what it would take to build the right experience for them to start getting excited about and buying art.”
These ideas morphed into the art-buying website Platform, which Huang launched in May 2021. At the beginning of each month, Platform brings a different, limited-time selection of artworks to its online marketplace, selected in collaboration with international gallery David Zwirner and a rotating list of independent galleries.
“Rather than putting the behavior of the art world online, we created an experience akin to something like Net-a-Porter or Farfetch, where everything is extremely edited and highly desirable, and then we make it easy to buy,” she says . “The art is amazing to look at, it’s well priced, it’s relevant to the world we live in and the artists in general are so excited to work with us that they make new work just for Platform, even if it is.” they otherwise have waiting lists. Getting this kind of inventory quality is unparalleled for any site.”
Each month, Platform features art from 24 different artists and 12 different gallery partners, “so the list is always changing,” says Huang. Some personal favorites are American artist Nathaniel Robinson and Sino-Irish artist Jingze Du. While Robinson paints everyday scenes—”like lemon wedges on a plate, boxing gloves on a table, an apple core with a plastic bag”—you paint “the stretched and exaggerated,” says Huang.
Danielle Orchard, on the other hand, “is an artist whose career I’m really excited about,” she says. “She paints portraits and scenes that look kind of cubist, but the colors and subject matter are very contemporary.” Orchard’s work sold for about $4,000 on Platform last October. The next month, one of her works fetched over $200,000 at auction. “It was such a cool example that we were really able to identify the next big artists,” says Huang.
Recent work includes that of Zach Bruder
Nyack (Dawn) for $8,200; Jacqueline Cedar’s Elevator for $4,500; Seth Bogarts
female mime for $3,500.
Shipping is available internationally and artwork prices range from $150 for a 44-page saddle-stitched zine to over $15,000.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
“In the traditional art world, social status is a currency,” says Huang. “Purchasing power is part of social status, but so are factors like whether you come from an influential family, whether you have a job that gives you influence, whether you are friends with the gallerist you are buying from, etc. So if you If you are in a gallery, art fair or other traditional place for buying and selling art, you first have to pass through this elite and highly subjective bar.”
Increasing diversity is also crucial for the platform. “When we choose art to offer, it’s based solely on the strength of the artwork, but one of the factors that determines the strength of an artwork is how relevant the work is to the world we live in,” says Huang. “Because of that, we end up offering a much more diverse group of artists than you see in almost any other art store.”
The platform also donates money to charity through special sales. Last year, Visual AIDS, an arts organization dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS, came out of selling prints of the famous Silence = Death design. More recently, prints by artists Marcel Dzama and Ebecho Muslimova benefited the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the longest-established Ukrainian women’s organization in the United States
The business model of the platform itself is sustainable. “If a gallery was selling through an art fair, they would send the works to the art fair. If works sell at the art fair, they are shipped to the customer, and if works don’t sell, they are sent back to the gallery,” says Huang. “Our model streamlines the process so we avoid unnecessary shipping and the use of packaging material. We also pay to offset the carbon footprint of every order shipped to a customer, which is an initiative the value of which is debatable, but we’re trying everything we can.”
“We have clients from all over the world and we’re working to expand so that our gallery partners also better represent the world,” says Huang. Target markets include UK, Hong Kong, Seoul, Mexico City, Brussels and others.