Talk to a Leader:
Uprise Art Founder Tze Chun and Gallery Director Whitney Shaw

2020.05.11 by Shift

Welcome back to our latest Talk to a Leader Q&A series.

Uprise Art has been bringing contemporary art to the people - and a new group of people to the artists - since 2011. With a carefully curated online gallery for browsing, complimentary art advisors help customers discover and expand their taste, offering interest-free installment plans, Uprise Art has leveled the playing field for prospective art collectors while removing the pain of self-promotion and sales for emerging artists.

We had a chat with Uprise Art Founder Tze Chun and Gallery Director Whitney Shaw about running a gallery that is not only contemporary in its art selection, but also its technological and philosophical ethos.

Tell us about Uprise Art — its history, who it’s for, your mission, where you see it leading in the future.

Tze Chun and Whitney Shaw: Uprise Art is an online art gallery dedicated to promoting the work of emerging contemporary artists. Since 2011, we have been democratizing the art world, making it easier and more accessible for people to find the perfect artwork for the spaces where they live and work.

The art world has always felt a little elite and out of reach, but accessibility seems to be a big theme of Uprise Art’s mission. Is that counter-cultural drive what’s behind the “Uprise” part of the name?

TC: There are many reasons why collecting original art has been inaccessible. The art world traditionally equates exclusivity with quality, and we prove that this is not true. I started Uprise Art because I saw a deep need in the market. Many of my friends who were interested in art did not own any original artwork, and many talented artists were finding it difficult to gain the attention of galleries and collectors. I envisioned that our new gallery would help both these groups “rise up” together as the next generation of art collectors and contemporary artists.

Gender equity and diversity (or lack thereof) is a big topic in the art world — and most especially, the startup world. You’re already ahead of the curve, being a woman-founded and led art gallery. What else is Uprise Art doing to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry?

TC & WS: More than 50 percent of our artists are women, which is very rare in the gallery world.

We look for artists who have a unique view of the world, and we believe that diversity of perspectives is important. Last year, we started a diversity and inclusion initiative to be more intentional to that end, and to understand where we stand and where we would like to improve.

What are the advantages of running a virtual gallery? Are ecommerce and digital spaces going to overtake the old fashioned, brick and mortar way of finding and collecting art?

TC & WS: We have a much larger reach. Collectors from all over the world can learn about our artists through the Uprise Art Journal and connect with our in-house art advisors for help finding the perfect pieces. As the number of options increase and the amount of visual information grows, curation becomes more and more important.

That being said, many of the aspects of our business are similar to those of a traditional gallery. Brick and mortar galleries create value through curation and by cultivating relationships. Similarly, we have invested in curation rather than algorithms, and in forming long-term relationships with collectors, rather than approaching transactions as simply ecommerce.

How do you compensate for the limitations of the virtual space — what tech has helped you connect with customers?

TC & WS: Having a website that combines content with commerce has enabled us to tell artists’ stories in a meaningful way. When you visit a traditional gallery, you may not know what questions to ask, or you may feel too rushed to learn about the artist’s history. Our site makes it easy to get lost in the works and the inspiration behind the pieces, and also presents all the information you would need to make a decision and place an order.

Uprise Art’s ethos seems to share our passion for beautiful design and art backed by thoughtful structure. How was the design and development process for you? What was most important to you in the redesign of your website?

TC: We loved the design and development process, and from my friends who are founders, that definitely sounds rare! Studio Rodrigo and Shift Lab listened to all of our goals and dreams, concerns and uncertainties, and created a brand identity, website, and marketing materials that were true to our vision, yet better than anything we could have imagined. As an online art gallery, presenting thousands of vastly different works of art on a single website has its challenges. They created an online experience that our collectors enjoy, that our artists love, and that we as a company are proud of.

What piece of advice do you have for new woman entrepreneurs or startup founders?

TC: If it were easy, everyone would do it. Keep going!


Uprise Art is an online art gallery that helps you discover original contemporary artwork by emerging artists for the spaces where you live and work. Their team of in-house art advisors curate for individual collectors, corporate collections & architectural projects around the world.