Combining a lust for art acquisitions with a keen technological sense, Manish Vora launched Artlog in 2008 as a one-stop web-shop for contemporary art. Joining forces with web developer Dylan Fareed, the 31-year-old Vora set out to fill what he considered a surprisingly empty niche. Artlog now provides resources like auction and sales date for collectors, dealers and gallerists, topped off with images and specs on individual works of art. The lively site also appeals to art lovers across the board with event listings, interviews and videos. AiA caught up with Vora after the site’s re-launch last week, which was a timely boost to kick off fair week.—LILLY SLEZAK
What is your educational background?
I went to public high school in Wayland, Mass., and then attended Yale University. I studied economics, history, American and cultural studies and art history.
Where did you grow up? Was art a part of your upbringing? How so or not? How did you get interested and involved in art?
I was born near Milwaukee, Wisc., but moved to suburban Boston when I was in fifth grade. Milwaukee was not exactly a cultural hub, though The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) has become a force in the area after the 2001 addition designed by Santiago Calatrava. In the 1980s, Miller Brewery was a more popular destination than the museum. Growing up in Boston, we were surrounded by art with the MFA, ICA, deCordova, and my favorite, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Our fantastic town library allowed us to take out free passes for all the museums.
My parents were integral to my appreciation for art. My father was a savvy traveler, and back in the day could book flights with free stops. We would take nearly four weeks every summer to travel, so by the time I was 14, I had been to the major museums in the U.S., Europe, India, and the Far East. My mother had a master’s degree in sitar, so art and music were always a passion in the family. I was also lucky to be at a public high school with a legendary robe-wearing classics teacher named Frank Smith. It was actually cool in our high school to love medieval and Renaissance art. It was normal for me to say I loved both the Red Sox and Titian.
What was your background in economics prior to launching your website, Artlog?
I was an investment banker and lived in Murray Hill-enough said. When I graduated in 2002 from Yale with an economics degree, I went to Citigroup, the largest investment bank in the world, and worked on post-bankruptcy Enron deals. After that, I went over to an equity research firm called Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co., where I became director of research.
How did that background prepare you for entering the realm of contemporary art?
Analyzing stocks is like putting a puzzle together. You have to look at how the company fits with its peers, and with political, geographic, and economic conditions. I enjoy investigating artists and their work in the context of these same conditions. The big difference is that the artist and the visuals are more enjoyable than an annual report or a gray-hair in a suit.
How did Artlog come to be? How do you describe or categorize the site?
We set out to build technology for galleries and museums to expose their artists’ work to collectors and a global audience of art lovers. Artlog is a global contemporary art guide—it’s a platform for art lovers and collectors to engage with a centralized catalog of contemporary fine art.
How did you meet your partners in the project?
I met my business partner, Dylan Fareed, as a freshman in college when he was just up the road at Wesleyan University. After college, he was my only friend living out in Brooklyn and he was running a web and graphic design studio. He is also a kick-ass printmaker. I would bring my finance friends to his Boerum Hill studio and we all felt very, very cool. At the time, Dylan was building websites for artists and galleries, and I had to convince him that I would quit finance to pursue a business in art with him.
What is the primary roadblock for contemporary art getting online?
For a long time it was the somewhat irrational fear that by putting work online, it would end up on a mouse pad or at a poster store. Now it is understanding that the web, well at least Artlog, is not trying to transform the way the art business is done. The internet is an essential partner that provides better access to global collectors, raises the profile of interesting artists, and increases general interest in art.
Have you faced any encouragement and/or prejudices while putting the project together?
The New Museum took a risk to support us right when we started in 2008 and has been a key partner ever since. Our alliance with NADA has given us valuable insight into what their galleries need. We have worked with hundreds of incredibly supportive galleries, but are particularly thankful to entities like Lehmann Maupin who were willing to grow with us and are taking the lead in bringing multimedia content to the industry.
What are your goals for the site?
We want to dramatically increase interest in fine art around the world and be a central hub for art consumers to engage with galleries, museums and artists online. We want to be an essential partner for galleries and museums to reach new and existing audiences.
What prompted last week’s re-launch of the site? What changes or new features have been implemented?
The new Artlog is global and puts the artist, the work, and the story behind the work at the forefront.
Users can add any artwork, artist, gallery, or article to their personal “artlogs” with just one click. They can also build calendars or self-curated collections and receive a weekly email digest of updates from their favorite artists or galleries. Finally, we will feature video content and contributions from an international network of artists, collectors, and curators in the new Artlog online magazine.
The magazine is about discovery and avoids critique. We have a global group of contributors who we hope enhance our audience’s own discoveries. Kyle DeWoody is a contributor who really took to the task visiting all the fairs and many gallery events during Armory Week with a mission to discover new artists. In the videos, we will feature industry insiders like Anne Pasternak, RoseLee Goldberg and Eric Shiner and artists ranging from Tony Feher and Ursula von Rydingsvard to artists doing their first gallery show