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Sugarlift is a company focused on connecting art lovers with work that speaks to them, and doing so without breaking the bank. Co-founded by entrepreneurs Wright Harvey and Bart Piela in 2014, the organization aims to be a reliable resource for hopeful art aficionados who don’t have the fiscal flexibility to purchase high-end art, but want to grow their collections and enrich their daily lives.
Through curating an online database, and providing community driven spaces for interacting with art, Sugarlift is doing its best to reimagine the way that people interface with the artwork that inspires them.
“There’s a huge community based component of what we’re doing,” Harvey tells BTRtoday.
He muses that New York City is an extraordinary place to live in if you love art, and want to experience it on a daily basis; there are limitless gallery spaces, museums, and even street corners adorned with intricate graffiti art. However, while art is readily available for temporary viewing, it’s just not as simple to purchase.
Harvey explains that all too often, the cost of art discourages people. Many times in traditional gallery spaces the price of a piece is so high that it’s not even listed. He says,“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it…and when you do find out, there are a lot of zeros.”
That’s where Sugarlift comes in.
“Part of the reason we started Sugarlift is that we realized that it doesn’t work on either side of the equation,” he continues. “It’s not optimal for artists–particularly young artists–and it’s not optimal for buyers–particularly young buyers.”
He maintains that, furthermore, the extremely high price tags often exist purely as a veneer; a status symbol. Artists may not be able to actually sell the piece of work for the amount it is listed at, but the act of pricing it in the same range as their peers signifies a certain level of professionalism and station in the art world.
As a whole, art tends to be more affordable online. This virtual world of artwork is fairly new. However, it has grown rapidly and led to an intense proliferation of an internet-based market. Harvey explains that it can be difficult for prospective art buyers to navigate this overwhelmingly large cache, so Sugarlift steps up to help.
Additionally, there are several potential pitfalls that come along with buying a piece that you have not had the opportunity to view in person. Artwork may look very different in its physical form than it appeared on a screen, or it may end up being low quality or flimsy.
Another deterrent is that the percentage of compensation artists receive in these forums isn’t always transparent. Once a purchase is made it’s often final, which means consumers do not have the chance to return a piece and be reimbursed.
Sugarlift wants to ensure that negative experiences such as these don’t sully consumers’ desires to collect art. Their database aids in the accumulation of art that they can vouch for; their team handpicks quality pieces by reputable artists for their clients to choose from.
“Our longterm vision for what we’re doing is that we want to create a sustainable relationship with our generation’s best artists,” says Harvey.
The business itself is located in Bushwick, where Sugarlift has a gallery space.
According to Harvey, it’s really a community engagement space. It is utilized for exhibitions and events, where attendees are often welcomed into the gallery to gain insight into the creative processes behind art-making. Community members meet the artists producing the works, and learn the stories which fuel their creation.
The neighborhood of Bushwick is extremely diverse, and Sugarlift is interested in fostering the ties between people from all walks of life.
“We appreciate being in a neighborhood that cuts across so many lines,” he explains, “and we try to have events that resonate with people who are art nerds, but come from all different places.”
It seems that the initiatives are working, as the events that they hold draw crowds. Representation comes from all walks of life: guys, girls, all races, all beliefs and backgrounds. Harvey talks about people arriving from midtown Manhattan in their suits juxtaposed against people skateboarding up from Bogart Street.
These community driven gatherings demonstrate one of the defining characteristics of art, what makes it so powerful to begin with–the very fact that it can speak to a spectrum of different people in a variety of ways.
“You see a lot of commonalities in terms of content,” says Harvey. “Love, emotions, loss and things that we think about are all reflected in the work we make. It doesn’t really matter where it is, or when it was. It all is something that can bring us together.”
Sugarlift hosts events which blur the lines between visual and performance art, between the silent, sterile experience of viewing art in a gallery and the boisterous act of going to a party with your friends. They housed a show where the photographs and screen prints of acclaimed recording artist Courtney Barnett were displayed while her albums played as an ambient accompaniment.
Additionally, they organized a “Know Your ABCs—Art, Beers, Cheese” show, where these creature comforts of consumption were paired for ultimate viewing pleasure.
These community driven events celebrate the intersections between music, art, food, and creation; all of the things which should bring joy and exhilaration to life.
“Art should be fun!” exclaims Harvey. “It should be something that you’re excited to do with your friends.”