— Contemporary Art, Education for Neophytes

As the old sitcom, "The Beverly Hillbillies," showed all too well, having a lot of money is no guarantee of good taste.

So, with discretionary income levels higher than ever, Boomers and Xers are turning to the Web to learn about and acquire fine art that is not only in good taste, but also may actually appreciate in value over the years.

One of the Web’s crop of new art sites, sells paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and other contemporary art, and also offers a variety of educational content including artist profiles, art reviews and commentary, news and opinions about art around the world. The site also will assist viewers in finding art to fit their tastes and pocketbook and organize weekly exhibitions of selected artists., located in San Francisco, has partnerships with more than 75 art galleries throughout the United States (and one in Japan), which offer their products through Most are located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. Each offering must pass muster with a jury of art specialists prior to joining the site. The jury currently consists of seven permanent participants of whom four are management at, one is a sculptor, one is an independent art dealer, and one is a graphic art designer. All have varied and extensive backgrounds in art and the business of art dealing. In addition, guest jurists are utilized including historians, journalists, dealers and gallery owners. has received a total of $5 million in venture capital, all of it in January 1999 from @ventures, a CMGI Affiliate (CMGI).

@ventures was repeatedly contacted by VC Watch, but none of the phone calls were ever returned. However, Tod Francis of Trinity Ventures, whose company has investments in other fine arts ventures including (diamonds) and (high end antiques), said: “The Internet allows buyers, particularly those with specific interests and tastes, to come in contact with inventory from throughout the world. The power lies in its ability to put buyers and sellers together who might not otherwise find each other.”

Francis contends that it works best when buyers know what they want. It’s more challenging when the buyer has only a vague idea of the art they might want to purchase or for emerging artists whose work is not yet widely known. Francis indicates that the market for posters is very strong as is the market for very high end fine art.

According to, they have more than 3,500 pieces of original art, ranging in price from $750 to $2,500. They accept major credit cards and have a five day money back guarantee. So if you get that terrific painting into your home and it really doesn’t look as great as you expected, you can return it. also has both paper and online gift certificates in denominations from $50 to $200.

The company does not keep inventory, but acts as the middleman for galleries and artists. They make a commission in the range of 25 to 50 percent depending on the piece of art. This compares with Ebay and whose commissions range from 1.25 to 5 percent per item with an additional listing fee of 25 cents to $2 for each piece listed. Auction houses, which inventory the stock and complete the entire transaction and handle shipping, typically calculate their commissions at 10% to 15% of the sales price depending on the size of the final bid.

Competition for can be found at these sites as well as Christie’s, Butterfield&Butterfield, and Although also dealing in fine art, these sites do not provide the art history and other learning tools found at was founded by Myrna Nickelsen and Michael Muller. Nickelsen has more than 16 years experience in marketing for both traditional and high technology clients including Radius, Jazz Multimedia, and Digital Arts and Sciences. Muller has a background in designing computer peripherals. Prior to his involvement with, he founded CONNECT Inc., which develops e-commerce sites, and was president of Apple Computer’s Information Services and vice president and general manager of Apple Computer’s Accessory Product division.


Company Name:

Address: 444 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

Phone: (415) 344-6915

Fax: (415) 977-6905

Contact email address: [email protected]

Web address:

Employees: 36

Total Funding: $5 million

Investors: @ventures

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