Montreal-based company Bidgala aims to democratize the art world

The online art marketplace appeals to emerging artists and new art collectors.

In an effort to bridge the gap between emerging visual artists and art lovers with an eye on interior design, Montreal entrepreneurs William Lande and Sam Tenenbaum launched an online art marketplace called Bidgala. The venture, founded in March, aims to ease financial strain on the creators as well as the buyers, offering affordable art to the latter and taking only a 30% commission from the former — that’s 20% less than what galleries demand.

“Artists are not taught about the business side of the art world, so that was one huge issue,” Lande said. “Artists have to be entrepreneurs at their core, they need to market themselves all on their own, with a very limited marketing budget. Universities don’t teach them that. They were taught how to create, not how to build up their careers. That’s something we wanted to solve. We have a whole editorial team that’s trying to educate artists on the business side of the art world and educate buyers on the artist side of the art world to help bridge that gap.”

As with many sectors of the economy, visual artists took a hit during the pandemic due to the closure of galleries and the shutdown of art events locally as well as internationally. Bidgala promotes artists and their art and facilitates sales but holds no inventory, allowing them to keep their costs low and demand less commission than galleries, and even less than most art sites. Despite having a curated section of their site, Bidgala boasts that access to their marketplace is entirely democratic and barrier-free. 

“Most of these online art platforms are exclusive because they don’t allow artists to enter barrier-free,” said Lande, noting that some sites will only accept artists already represented by galleries while others charge exorbitant commissions. “Even if they do end up accepting an artist, they only promote established artists. We offer artists exposure through our strategic partnerships.”

“Companies like Etsy would accept anyone and their commissions are low,” Tenenbaum added, “but in exchange you’re selling your artwork and permit promoting your work next to someone who is selling a bracelet for $5. It kind of cheapens your whole image.”

Bidgala targets younger consumers as well as younger artists, so the site functions in ways that will be familiar to its demographic. Each artist has a Linked In-style profile, communication between the artists and buyers happens via direct chat and the purchasing process takes place through social media features. Lande explained how it works:

“All you have to do is submit your email, make a password and you’re signed up within 60 seconds. It’s a simple as that. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to go through this complicated sales process. Once your art does sell, before we collect money from the buyer, you do have to get a little further verified, not as an artist but as a legal person. For example, our payment process requires the artist’s banking information so that we can pay them out, and if they can’t provide that, we’ll never charge the buyer.”

Bidgala ensures that their sellers are real people and filters out all trolls, but art is not judged or censored. What matters is the art, the experience and the story.

“Our company motto right now is that your story matters,” Tenenbaum says. “We highlight artist stories through their profiles and through the chat functionalities, through the direct messages that buyers can send artists. It allows art collectors to really make the art meaningful within their home because it has a story behind it. The stories allow users on the website to make a meaningful connections and that’s important because it helps make the art meaningful but also allows you to go through an experience when purchasing the art. You’re exploring and discovering and meeting new people and that’s what art shopping should be. It shouldn’t be walking into a store looking at art and picking something that might look good with your carpet. You should be doing that but you should also be exploring, and that’s what we want to do with Bidgala.”

For more, and to upload or buy art, please visit the Bidgala website.

For more on the Montreal arts scene, please visit the Arts & Life section.