Tze Chun Disrupts The Traditional Gallery Model with Uprise Art

Throughout her life, Tze Chun has experienced art from many arenas. A visual artist, student of art history, and most recently, founder of Uprise Art, an online gallery, Chun knows the art world from the inside out. Chun began Uprise Art in 2011 after seeing a need in the industry for more connection between young art collectors and emerging artists. Now a full-fledge operation with an impressive roster of artists and clients, Uprise Art continues to make waves in the industry with its contemporary business model. Here, we chat with Chun about her start, her take on the current art landscape, and the importance of female leaders.

What is your background and how did art become a part of your life?

I’ve been a visual and performing artist my whole life, and studied art history in college. I’ve spent the past thirteen years as an entrepreneur in the arts.

What was the impetus for creating Uprise Art?

I launched Uprise Art in 2011 in response to seeing a deep need in the market. As an art history major, many of my classmates went into the art world. They worked at galleries, institutions, and auction houses, but many did not own original artwork. None would have called themselves art collectors. I also had quite a few friends who were artists, hustling and hitting the pavement, looking for galleries to exhibit their work. I had graduated from Columbia University right before the financial crisis, so I also had this entire other group of friends who went on to be corporate lawyers, consultants, and bankers. They lived in amazing apartments with no art, and had limited time to integrate themselves into the cultural fabric of the city. They had corporate memberships to all the museums and never used them.

I saw these two groups of people – young artists and patrons – who, in twenty or thirty years, would want to know each other. I thought to myself, there has to be a mechanism to introduce these people at an earlier point in their careers. The alternative is that they miss out on all this time when they could be learning about art, living with art and having art enrich their life. And, for artists, missing out on having all the resources to continue exploring their ideas and furthering their careers.

Artwork by Jordan Sullivan. Photo by Claire-Esparros.

Why is Uprise Art important in today’s art landscape?

As the number of options increase and the amount of visual information grows, curation becomes more and more important. Traditional brick and mortar galleries create value through curation and by cultivating relationships. We have similarly invested in curation rather than algorithms, and in forming long-term relationships with collectors rather approach transactions as simply ecommerce.

How do you decide which artists to add to your roster?

We look for artists who have a unique view of the world and a conceptually compelling artistic practice. We’re also focused on advancing the careers of emerging artists, where our support can make the largest impact.

Uprise Art at PULSE Art Fair 2018.

What are some of the company’s long-term goals?

As an online gallery we’re constantly striving to utilize tech to help us be as efficient and effective as possible. We want to expand the collecting experience with more in-depth content on artists and artwork.

We’re fortunate to be based in NYC, which is home to hundreds of artists. Most people in the world do not live with that kind of proximity. Our goal is to continue to create engaging and educational content for others to have a nuanced, intimate, and sincere connection with an artist’s practice, regardless of where they are based.

Have you seen the landscape shift for females, such as yourself, looking to take on pioneering roles in the art world?

In certain areas, yes. It has become more and more difficult to ignore the disparity in representation of women in leadership positions in institutions and of women artists in the art market. Awareness is the first step. Actual change is separate from that and the next step.

Artwork by Inka-Bell. Photo by Christian-Torres.

As a female CEO, is it important to you to create equal opportunities for women both who you employ and who you represent?

Yes. Women are underrepresented in the art world, from museum directorships and permanent collections, to gallery representation and auction sales. Uprise Art is a female-founded gallery with a team of mostly women. More than 50 percent of our artists are women, which is rare in the gallery world.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

As an artist or an entrepreneur, there are many times when challenges are overwhelming. Approaching every challenge as a unique opportunity to excel and problem solve has helped me keep a positive attitude.

There are plenty of places online to buy posters and prints, and many are doing a great job. Uprise Art focuses on one-of-a-kind artist originals. It’s a totally different beast. Every SKU is unique. Art is also a highly personal purchase and most ecommerce best practices don’t apply. It’s an incredibly hard code to crack, and that is what makes every day exciting as we continue to grow our company. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Uprise Art homepage.

What are you excited for this year?

We’ve been working on a number of large-scale public and residential projects that are coming to fruition this year. I’m looking forward to growing our team and expanding on the range of artistic projects we make possible.