Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Indiewalls: A New Way to Become an Art Collector in NYC

indiewalls3.pngArts & Science alumnus Ari Grazi (CAS '10) has teamed up with Cornell University graduate Gavi Wolf as co-founder of IndieWalls--a new, innovative way for New York City artists to share their work with the community. IndieWalls, takes notice that many typical art-buyers make purchases by visiting art galleries--but what about the possible buyers who are not usual gallery-goers? 
As Mr. Grazi told the New York Observer, "every wall that a painting can be hung on is a valuable square foot of Manhattan real estate." IndieWalls finds this unused wall space by acting as a liaison between the artist and venues that are not known for selling art, such as local coffee shops and restaurants. This way, artists are given exposure, venues are provided with beautiful work to display, and New Yorkers unexpectedly walk-in on an art show when picking up their morning coffee. It's a win-win-win situation. IndieWalls has even modernized the actual act of purchasing a work of art, making it possible to simply scan it's QR code with a smart phone and buy the piece online. 

We recently spoke to Ari about IndieWalls and what it took to start the company. Be sure to follow them at @IndieWalls and visit their website to browse work from participating artists and venues

indiewalls4.pngFor those who are not familiar with IndieWalls, could you talk a little about the company’s objective?   

IndieWalls works with trendy local venues - restaurants, cafes, hotels - whose walls function as gallery space for the artists we represent. The driving philosophy of the company is that artists are always looking for new ways to gain exposure, and lots of venues want unique and eye-catching artwork for their walls. Everyone wins; the artist gets to reach new audiences, the venues get free artwork for their walls, and buyers get the opportunity to see and buy beautiful local artwork everywhere they go. The IndieWalls online platform is the central hub of activity - where venues find art for exhibition, and artists promote and sell their work to new buyers. We are in 14 venues in Manhattan and are expanding quickly. We have 150 approved artists on the site, and 1400 pieces of art currently browseable by venues looking for artwork to exhibit. While we are currently working mainly with restaurants and cafes, we are quickly expanding into both retails stores – designer clothing, home furnishing, among others – and lobbies of residential and commercial buildings. Most venues love getting local artwork for free, but have no idea where to find artists. Indiewalls is a full-service company devoted to this entire process. We source the artists, oversee the installation, handle all sales inquiries and payments, and take care of shipping and handling.  

What are the criteria for artists who wish to work with IndieWalls? Will IndieWalls feature artists who practice as a hobby rather than a full-time endeavor? 
Most of our artists have previous experience showing and selling work. For artists, our goal is to help those who are serious about their art get more exposure. For the public, our goal is to change the perception that the art in local venues is merely decoration. We want people to see the art in an IndieWalls venue and not only know that there is a serious artist who created the work, but be ‘wowed’ by the work itself. Therefore, we are not opposed to exhibiting work from a hobbyist, so long as their work raises the bar on work shown in alternative exhibition spaces, and meets our curatorial standards.  

indiewalls5.pngThe New York Observer states that you do not compete with NYC art galleries. You are, “selling different art to a different consumer.” How do IndieWalls artists and art-buyers differ from those that work with art galleries?

Let me first say this. The Chelsea gallery world is, and will always be, an essential part of the art market. In fact, we hope that some artists will use IndieWalls as a springboard into that gallery world. Remember that gallery directors and museum curators are patrons of the venues in which IndieWalls displays art. To answer your question specifically, our goal is to bring high-quality artwork to the public – especially to individuals who are not necessarily frequenting the New York gallery scene. Instead of opening an art gallery and attracting buyers to our space, we put up artwork where potential buyers are already congregating – their cafes, restaurants, and lounges. Does that mean that gallery-goers won’t buy artwork from our site? Of course not. But we’re hoping to reach a market that hasn’t been reached yet – consumers that can afford high-quality artwork, but are not going to art galleries to buy that artwork. Lastly, where we are different from our competitors is that we are not just putting the art online and hoping that people come to the site. Rather we are presenting it to buyers everywhere they go. The platform is an infinitely more successful method for artists to gain exposure than just selling their art online. 

What kind of affect do you see IndieWalls having on the NYC art scene?

I don’t think anyone can say for sure what is going to happen to the NYC art scene. There are a number of different online art galleries as well as pop-up galleries that are looking to shake things up. But I think the verdict is still out as to where we will find ourselves in 5 years from now. The only thing I think we can say for sure is that the art market as we know it today is changing. The purchasing of original artwork and limited edition prints is still a passion limited to a minority of New Yorkers. IndieWalls is going to change that, by bringing high-quality artwork to places where people are congregating – reaching those consumers who may never have attended a gallery opening.   

There are quite a few “participating artists” listed on the IndieWalls website. Do you think IndieWalls will ever need or want to open an art gallery of its own?                
And pay rent? I think not. The more local artists we represent, the more local venues we will be able to partner with.   

As a young entrepreneur, what experiences or knowledge best prepared you to start your own business?

Knowing how to cater to a lot of people at once and treating them each as if they were your only client – that’s very important. We’re helping artists get public exposure, while helping venue owners get artwork for their walls, and directing potential art buyers to those walls. At the same time we’re processing purchase orders, seeking capital investments, and harvesting partnerships with others in the worlds of art, hospitality and tech. I deal with a lot of different people every day and I try to give each one as much attention as possible. No doubt an essential characteristic of successful entrepreneurs (and I don’t consider myself part of that group just yet) is the ability to think fast, and move even faster. Never lose focus and never lose steam; slowing down could be terminal. When entrepreneurs are going into an industry – art, medicine, finance, education –they should always seek to be adding something new, something different. In the world of entrepreneurs “me too” doesn’t cut it. Probably the most successful entrepreneur of our generation, Steve Jobs, couldn’t have said it better: “Think different." Lastly, one of the most important things about being an entrepreneur, which so many people have stated but can’t be stated enough, is not to believe anyone that tells you something is impossible. I can’t tell you the number of times that someone has told us some piece of the model was impossible, after which we eventually proved them wrong.  

If any of our alumni are artists or have art that they would like to submit, how should they get in contact with IndieWalls?
We have a simple application that requires contact information and three sample pieces of their work. Here’s a direct link - 

Do you recommend any particular IndieWalls venues that NYU alumni should check out?  
Let’s see, around the NYU area there’s The Bean on 2nd Avenue and east 3rd street (and the one on Broadway and East 12th), The Grey Dog – both on University Place and Mulberry street – The Cupping Room on West Broadway @ Broome street. You can always visit to find the exhibition nearest you and to start collecting works from IndieWalls artists. 

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