As an art history and economics major,
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 found herself disappointed.
“The traditional art industry was one very much rooted in relationships and elitism, and a place that was averse to innovation,” Huang says. “That… felt contrary to what I care about.”
Huang, 38, went to business school believing she would never work in art again and spent the next 10 years in e-commerce start-ups. “I realized we were selling furnishings and design objects to young, aesthetically oriented, wealthy people who might buy art but weren’t doing that and wouldn’t do it through the traditional means of making relationships with gallerists or bidding in auctions,” she says. “So… I started to map out what it would take to build the right experience to get them to start feeling excited about art and buying it.”
Those ideas morphed into art buying site Platform, which Huang launched to the public in May 2021. At the start of each month, Platform brings a different limited-time selection of artworks to their online marketplace, chosen in partnership with international gallery
and a rotating roster of independent galleries.
“Instead of putting art world behaviors online, we’ve created an experience that resembles 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 well priced, it’s relevant to the world we live in, and the artists are generally so excited to work with us that they make new works just for Platform, even when otherwise they have waitlists. To get this kind of quality of inventory is without precedent for any site.”
Each month, Platform offers art from 24 different artists and 12 different gallery partners, “so the list is always changing,” Huang says. Some personal favorites include American artist
and Chinese-Irish artist Jingze Du. While Robinson paints scenes of everyday life—“like wedges of lemon on a plate, boxing gloves on a table, an apple core with a plastic bag”—Du paints “the stretched and exaggerated,” Huang says.
meanwhile, “is an artist whose trajectory just really excites me,” she says. “She paints portraits and scenes that are kind of cubist looking, but the colors and subject matter are very much of our times.” Orchard’s works were sold on Platform in October last year for about US$4,000. The next month, a work of hers sold at auction for over US$200,000. “It was such a cool example of us really being able to identify the next big artists,” Huang says.
Recent works include
Nyack (Dawn) for US$8,200; Jaqueline Cedar’s Lift for US$4,500;
Female Mimics for US$3,500.
Shipping is available internationally and prices for artworks range from US$150 for a 44-page, saddle-stitched zine, to over US$15,000.
WHAT’S THE GOOD?
“In the traditional art world, social status is currency,” Huang says. “Buying power is a part of social status, but also baked in are factors like whether you come from an influential family, whether you are in a job that gives you influence, whether you’re a friend of the gallerist you’re buying from, etc. So when you’re in a gallery, art fair, or other traditional venue for buying and selling art, you first have to pass that elitist and highly subjective bar.”
Critical to Platform, too, is increasing diversity. “When we select art to offer, it’s based purely on the strength of the artwork, but one of the factors that determines the strength of a work of art is how relevant the work is to the world in which we live,” says Huang. “Because of that, we end up offering a much more diverse group of artists than you see in almost any other art business.”
Platform also donates money to charity through dedicated sales. Last year, sales of prints of the famous Silence = Death design benefited Visual AIDS, an arts organization committed to raising AIDS awareness. More recently, prints by artists
benefited the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the longest-running Ukrainian women’s organization in the U.S.
Platform’s business model is itself sustainable. “If a gallery were selling through an art fair, it would ship the works to the art fair. If works sell at the art fair, they get shipped to the customer, and if works don’t sell, they get shipped back to the gallery,” Huang says. “Our model streamlines the process so that we cut out unnecessary shipping and use of packing materials. We also pay to offset the carbon footprint of each order shipped to a customer, which is an initiative that has debatable value, but we’re trying everything we can.”
“We have customers from around the globe, and we’re working on expanding such that our gallery partners better represent the globe too,” Huang says. Target markets include the U.K., Hong Kong, Seoul, Mexico City, Brussels, and elsewhere.