Hi Marques, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My passion is art. I directed that energy to help art lovers find their perfect piece and support the arts community through our artist management agency, Artgence. I love all kinds of art, but I really drawn to those new, up-and-coming artists that haven’t been discovered yet. I love art pieces that are unique and new-something that speaks to me personally as a collector. And nothing makes me happier than to see an art collector’s face when they see that perfect piece for the first time. It’s magic!
I’m a Creative with a side of Intellectual. I started with music, singing playing five instruments in high school. I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and spent ten years in the military. I wanted to get back to my artistic roots, so I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams. LA, like Paris is a city of Creatives, just waiting to be discovered. I was born in California, making it a welcome homecoming, after being raised in The South.
I leveraged the engineering skills I learned in the military for work to make ends meet, all while still chasing that artistic satisfaction. I met a brilliant architect named Ralph Robinson and we created a California-based landscape design business together. That’s when it really all came together for me. He was the one that first introduced me to fine arts, showing me works by great artists like Salvador Dali and David Hockney as well as visiting the many museums around Los Angeles. Ralph also introduced me to California-based artist Stephen Robert John who specializes in geometric artform influenced by Bauhaus. Through Stephen, I became completely immersed in the world of fine arts. Around that time, my job with an engineering firm sent me to Paris, exposing me to a history of art that only Paris can offer. And Paris ignited a new-artist-discovery passion within me. Artgence is the result of that excitement. Artgence is the result of all the global experiences, passions, and business skills I have developed over the course of a 20-year career.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Starting any new business is a challenge, but I’ve got a lot of experience running a business during challenging times.
Our landscape business had to navigate through the 2008 financial crisis soon after we founded it. We adjusted by offering superior services through a newly-available talent pool. And we were very successful. Artgence, has had to navigate this new socially-distant world, right after our 2019 founding, but this has actually worked to our advantage. Working with our three French developers, we’ve created a virtual gallery experience that mimics the real-life experience of visiting a gallery. With the lockdown, art collectors needed a new way to discover great art, art gallery curators needed a digital way to display their collections, and undiscovered artists needed a new way to show their work. Artgence’s 3-D Digitial Gallery enables everyone to connect virtually. Originally, we only focused this effort toward pop-up galleries and art fairs, since they are both becoming more popular. But now, we’ve leveraged this work to enable art discovery to be done safely from one’s home. Why should those who don’t live in Paris with easy access to an incredible artist community, not be able to experience that magic? With Artgence’s virtual gallery anyone, anywhere can discover new artist’s creations.
In 2018, I took a DNA test and discovered my roots which at first was a bit confusing but based on the US’s history it made more sense – My bloodline comes from Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Africa Southeastern Bantu, Mali, Europe, and the UK. The artists on our roster reflect the areas of my DNA. As a black man, I truly want the business to be a reflection of these amazing artist who haven’t been introduced the large art collector community.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We connect art lovers with great, undiscovered artists. Artgence is an artist management and art brokerage agency. Our mission is to help out talented artists around the world find the right homes for their work.
We accomplish this in several ways, by partnering with artists to digitally display their works and hosting virtual exhibitions to showcase their art to a global audience. In addition to artist representation, we also work with discerning collectors seeking to discovery new artist. It can be very tough to find and purchase the right piece of art. We make that process easier. Buying art should be an enjoyable process that anyone can, and should, do.
One services that stands out in the art collector community is our virtual gallery. There’s nothing like that indescribable feeling you get when you enter a physical exhibition space. The Artgence virtual gallery experience gives you that feeling.
During this crazy pandemic when we can’t physically connect, Artgence3D is connecting the art community. We’re working to boost activity in the art industry and keep it viable for everyone.
With that in mind, I feel the virtual space won’t go away after the pandemic ends. The experience is simply too immersive. I think every gallery will adopt this new digital realm, exposing their artists to a new audience with a “global storefront” that bring their physical space experience to art collectors around the world. This is especially the case in the Art Fair industry. Our latest release offered the most interactive gallery space in the industry, enabling the digital gallery to host over 50 “booths” with and over 100 artists. There’s nothing like it.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Seek out people who are doing what you love. Find them and open a conversation. Ask them about how they got started and offer something in return for their kindness. Do your research in advance and bring them some information or insight they may not be aware of to show them how passionate you are. Offer to work for them for free if you have to. The experience will be priceless. I believe people are truly good-nature and have a heart. They want to help others. They just need to see that spark within you that they also had when they were getting started.
Remember, there may be some luck involved too. It can be a chance meeting or even just that special connection you make with someone. There isn’t a specific formula, but you do have to go out there and make those exposure opportunities happen. And when you do, magic happens.
Interview initially published in Voyage LA : http://voyagela.com/interview/hidden-gems-meet-marques-hardin-artgence/