Who is Gallerist? A Mysterious New Player in Art E-Commerce
Gallerist.com, a startup company based in New York's West Village, is quietly joining the battle for art world market share among websites like art.sy and paddle8, partnering with art fairs including NADA and Volta.
The company launched in March with no fanfare or even an announcement to the press. It has engaged New York-based publicist Nadine Johnson. Through Johnson's office, the founder and CEO, Doğan Perese, offered A.i.A. an e-mail interview. The answers tended toward the non-specific and leaned on the language of Silicon Valley. Asked to comment on their plans to generate revenue, for example, the founder wrote about unnamed "innovative methods" and "monetizing vertically integrated components of the [site] . . . via strategic partnerships."
Conversations with three art world people who spoke off the record, along with the e-mail from the company's founder, allowed A.i.A. to piece together a picture of the firm.
Perese, 32, is an attorney and, according to sources and a LinkedIn page, a senior management associate at Bridgewater Associates, an investment management firm based in Westport, Conn., that manages approximately $125 billion in investments for institutional clients. Perese indicated to A.i.A. that he was "recently a senior manager at a prominent Connecticut hedge fund." Perese no longer works for the firm, according to his press representative.
"My formal scholastic training and experience is in markets, game theory and technology," Perese told A.i.A., "so my interest in the arts and its convergence within my field of expertise presented an interesting cultural and commercial problem to solve."
The company launched its beta homepage in March. "From individual galleries to global fairs," says the site, "Gallerist helps art professionals exhibit and exchange works of art from anywhere in the world while enhancing the quality of their client relationships and interactions."
Sources estimated that Gallerist has a staff of eight to 10, and indicated that Perese is CEO; Ken Tyburski, one of the owners of New York's DCKT Gallery, is working with the company as liaison to art galleries; and curator/critic David Hunt is also affiliated.
Gallerist's most visible strategy so far has been to partner with art fairs to create online catalogues of the participating galleries and their offerings. Viewers to its homepage can "experience Gallerist" via links to catalogues for Art Southampton and Volta 8. The company is listed as a sponsor of Moving Image and of the Dallas Art Fair, where, this spring, it offered prizes for the best works at the fair priced under $15,000. It purchased the two winning works (whose prices totaled that amount), by Hugh Scott Douglas and Jason Brinkerhoff, and donated them to the Dallas Museum of Art.
The company's business plan remains a mystery. "We help collectors find the works that they want—and we help gallerists reach people around the world," Perese told A.i.A. "In most cases, we charge a transaction fee."
Though Perese was sparing with information with A.i.A., he was not media-shy when he got married, in 2006. The New York Observer chronicled in detail Perese's proposal to then-fellow associate Sarah Mascareñas at the law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, a New York and London law firm.
According to a wedding announcement in the New York Times, Perese graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, where he also earned his law degree. His mother is a lawyer in the immigration and customs enforcement division of the Justice Department, according to the Times, and his father was the chief executive of TechSys Information Systems, a computer services company in San Antonio.
Chris Byrne, art dealer and co-founder of the Dallas Art Fair, told A.i.A., "I was a consultant for an e-commerce company in the '90s. Some people were plainly in it for the venture capital. It was surprising how few of them were familiar with the content they were marketing. But with Doğan and David you felt like they were coming at it from the inside."