Wright Harvey from Sugarlift
Sugarlift constantly adapts to meet the changing needs of the art market
A mission-driven art gallery with an online marketplace, Sugarlift is bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar galleries and the digital world.
“Sharetribe gave us superpowers.”
– Wright Harvey, founder of Sugarlift
Wright Harvey is not your typical gallerist. Growing up, he had a real passion for art, spending countless hours drawing. But after college, he found himself working in finance at J.P. Morgan.
Back in those days, every night, you’d find Wright in one of New York City’s many art galleries and studios, connecting with artists. By day, he’d return to the bank’s Manhattan office, crunching numbers but also sharing advice with senior bankers on the art they should add to their collection.
One day, gazing from his office across the East River to Brooklyn and Queens, home to tens of thousands of artists, he came to a realization:
“The problem with the art market wasn’t a lack of artists or a lack of demand – it was a lack of infrastructure. I saw it as an economics problem. If we could remove the opaqueness of pricing and inventory and create engagement, we could help everyone discover great art.”
Inspired, Wright launched Sugarlift, first as a traditional art gallery in Brooklyn. But he quickly found that instead of a gallery, Sugarlift was functioning more as a matchmaker – a matchmaker with capacity issues.
“We had to understand the client, what inspired them, and what they were looking for. And then we had to match them with artists and find specific pieces they would like. It was a very manual process.
“We realized we needed to create something that could expand outside of the gallery’s walls and still support the community.”
Wright knew an online marketplace that connected the art community with buyers was the answer. The only problem? Finding the right technology.
"I didn't have the technical know-how to build a marketplace myself or oversee someone else building it. We needed something that we could set up quickly and experiment with at a low cost."
Wright and his team quickly found Sharetribe. They valued not only the sleek, intuitive design of the platform but also the powerful features and capabilities that Sharetribe brought to the table.
In late 2019, Wright started working with Sharetribe, launching Sugarlift’s online marketplace in May 2020, right after the pandemic set in. At the time, the art world was in disarray: COVID-19 had shut everything down, art fairs were canceled, and traditional galleries were struggling to adapt.
In an industry that’s been reluctant to embrace technology, Sugarlift found themselves well-placed to step up and fill the gap. “We initially feared the worst, but the pandemic drove a lot of connections, engagement, and transactions between artists and buyers online,” Wright explains.
Since then, business has grown steadily, and Sugarlift’s gallery has reopened. Wright has seen a major shift: a blurring of the lines between the digital and the physical art world. At Sugarlift, the marketplace and the gallery are closely interlinked. There are over 500 artists on Sugarlift’s online marketplace, ten to twenty of whom they exhibit in the gallery every year.
Wright has ambitious plans for Sugarlift. He anticipates Sharetribe will be an important part of the platform’s continued growth.
“Our focus for the future is to create a more social layer on top of the platform. Making connections is an integral part of Sugarlift’s offering.
We believe in using software that allows us to recreate things that already happen in the real world more efficiently and at scale. Sharetribe continues to support our efforts towards that.”
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