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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
The fine art of shopping online
Art online: Britart.com, Easyart.com, Artart.co.uk
Buyers select works by genre, price or artist

Websites that offer the chance to buy original contemporary works of art can provide a welcome service to those who are faced with bare walls and limited time to shop.

By stripping away the dealers and even the artists themselves, buyers can get down to basics - selecting works by genre, price or artist.

There are numerous websites selling art which guide the untrained artistic eye or simply help those who are too busy to visit galleries.


Can this virtual viewing take the place of handling the work?

Artart.co.uk claims to be "a gallery to explore, discover, browse and buy contemporary art".

But be warned, the site rarely seems to be updated and finding your way around can be frustrating.

Taste

Britart.com is a slick site containing over 4,000 works of art, including paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures and installations.

With prices ranging from 50 to 10,000, Britart is aimed at those looking for something specific.

In short, this is the tailor-made suit of the market as opposed to the off-the-peg outfit.

Virtual guides, Britart.com
Business or pleasure? Guides are there to serve
As with most virtual sales rooms, the viewer is also given the choice to buy at a real gallery.

However, figures suggest that customers are more than happy to buy online as 60% of the company's sales are now made through the site.

"Virtual guides" are at hand to help choose artwork for business or personal spaces.

Questions are posed to make quick taste assumptions, such as what sort of media do you associate yourself with - Radio 4 or Channel 4?

The images download quickly and the quality is reasonably clear, but can this virtual viewing take the place of handling the work?

Children's illustrator Sue Hendra thinks not. "These sites are a great way to refine your search. They give you an idea of the sort of things that you might like," she explained.

"But works of art are 3D things, you need to know about the textures and the true colours before you can even think about buying them."

Secure

In contrast to the gallery approach of Britart.com, Easyart.com has a supermarket feel.

Complete with shopping carts and framing options, this offers classic prints, photographs and etchings by well-known artists such as Matisse and Dali.

Prices are reasonable and special features, including a guide for business buyers and gift vouchers, make it easy to buy online.

Meanwhile, the option to view "previous customers' comments" coupled with the Which Web Trader Code of Practice, gives reassurance to nervous online buyers.

Unpretentious and clear navigation may make this site popular with the home shopper, but style tips such as "how to hang 'em" are likely to make art experts cringe.

See also:

12 May 99 | Entertainment
17 Aug 99 | Entertainment
21 Nov 01 | Entertainment
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