For Everette Taylor, a 29-year-old serial entrepreneur who has built a tech and marketing empire over the better part of a decade, his latest business endeavor is more than just a career pivot. He wants to redefine the world of fine art.
Taylor has a venerable reputation for his marketing savvy in Silicon Valley. He has built companies with an eye toward growth. His work ethic has earned him considerable success.
As the chief executive of ET Enterprises, Taylor oversees several businesses, including the marketing and software firms MilliSense and GrowthHackers, the data-driven social-media platform PopSocial, the drug-addiction recovery app Hayver, and the Richmond, Virginia-based charitable foundation, Southside Fund.
Now, after having spent nearly a decade immersed in tech, marketing, and data, Taylor has turned his attention to the art world. His new company, called ArtX, is built to elevate artists of color: showcasing their work, helping build their audiences, and offering them the software and tools they need to run their own businesses and grow their careers.
Redefining the art gallery space
For Taylor, this latest endeavor started with a simple problem. As a successful entrepreneur looking for tangible ways to invest his money, he decided to start collecting artwork. The practice is a long-held tradition among the wealthy who acquire creative works that appreciate in value over time.
But Taylor discovered that breaking into that arena is hard. Sourcing and buying original art is not easy, either. The business of fine art is notoriously insular, and traditional galleries can feel cold and unwelcoming.
Taylor told Business Insider in an interview that the types of art he finds in some of those galleries are also lacking diverse representation.
“There’s so many different communities that are creating art that aren’t getting a fair opportunity to really show and display their work,” he said.
The young mogul, a two-time Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree, spent an hour in Business Insider’s downtown Los Angeles office earlier this month to talk about ArtX and what it was like navigating the art world as a young black entrepreneur.
“I would go into galleries and spaces and people wouldn’t speak to me or recognize me. I would want to buy art, and I would get the runaround from galleries,” Taylor said, recounting the ones that did acknowledge him would sometimes rebuff his attempts to spend any money.
“I wouldn’t even be able to have access to those works unless I was a certain person,” he said. “I just thought it was very undemocratic and unfair.”
Read more: How an LA upstart is redefining the media world by helping Black millennials ‘tell their own story’
Shifting the art culture
The way Taylor sees it, the art gallery model is ripe for reorganization on every level.
He says ArtX wants to accomplish that by first showcasing artists of all stripes — particularly those who are underrepresented in the traditional art-gallery world — highlighting their work and their stories. A look at the ArtX website at the time of this writing reveals one compilation by the Pittsburgh art curator Sean Beauford who paired the works of artist Kerry James Marshall with lyrics from the superstar hip-hop mogul Jay-Z as context for the pieces.
“We want to talk about things that aren’t normally written about in the art space,” Taylor said. “A lot of the stuff you read about is very academic, so we want to create stuff that’s easily consumable for the average person, whether you’re someone who holds an art degree from Yale or you’re a high-schooler who’s just interested in art.”
Highlighting diverse perspectives, Taylor said, is key to empowering artists of color. During this Wednesday morning interview, he points to the works of the Brooklyn-born Haitian-Puerto Rican artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work has received critical acclaim.
“The art community is more diverse than ever. It’s not like the way it used to be,” Taylor said. “Early on, it was such a revelation to have someone like Basquiat operating within a mostly white space. Now there’s hundreds of thousands of artists like him — maybe not all equal in terms of talent and skill, but the space looks much different.”
They, too, need a platform to build an audience, share their work, and find potential customers, Taylor said.
ArtX is giving artists that platform with the help of its AI-powered tool, ArtX Amplify, which fuels that part of the business, helping creators build their brand on social media, which ultimately translates into sales, Taylor said.
The way forward
On top of his ambition to elevate a new generation of artists, Taylor envisions ArtX as a future e-commerce hub for the art market.
Online art sales have grown in recent years, according to findings compiled by the business insurance provider Hiscox Ltd., which said the online art market grew nearly 10% in 2018 to $4.64 billion.
That’s a slight decline from the 12% expansion the market saw in 2017, but what’s key here is millennials make up a sizable portion of these art buyers.
According to the 2019 Hiscox online art trade report, 79% of millennials surveyed said they bought art online more than once in the last 12 months. And perhaps most notably, 23% of those millennials said they had “never bought an artwork in a physical space (e.g. gallery, auction or art fair) prior to buying art online.” That’s an increase from 18% in the prior year, the survey found.
But, money and sales aside, Taylor sees ArtX as the most important chapter of his entrepreneurial career. It’s for the culture. “I really want to do things that are impactful, and change the world in a positive space,” Taylor said.
“Art is so valuable to who we are as people,” he said, recounting an interview during which the artist George Condo declared art is more important than life, “because at least it lives forever.”
Taylor paused for a moment, his normally resonant, youthful voice taking a contemplative tone.
“With this project, this is my art piece. This is something I think I can build successfully, and it’s going to help people for a long time after I’m gone.”