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Latest online startup aims for 3D sales

The creators of a new software venture think that adding an extra dimension will get things moving

A new virtual venture launching this month claims it will create a three-dimensional platform for the art world.

The software package ArtConnect3D promises, according to its creators, to “bring art even closer to home by providing a sense of reality that was not available previously”.

The package will allow users to view art in a three-dimensional setting, utilising click-and-zoom technology in order to see works in detail. Its creators also plan to add motion-sensor functions later this year. “If you just look at a flat image, you don’t get a true sense of the work,” said Francois Renet of New York’s L&M gallery. Renet is a managing partner of the project and has teamed up with its founder, Ingmar Rinck, and fellow managing partner Carlos Soto, who both work for a major US financial institution. Rinck is in charge of business development, while Soto oversees the technology.

The three say that while 3D technology has taken off in the movie and gaming worlds, it is still in its infancy online. ArtConnect3D comprises several different components, principally targeted at galleries, but also available for “anyone in the art world”, said Renet, from auctions and art fair organisers to artists, collectors and consultants.

The most expensive option is a bespoke service, priced at around $50,000, which gives dealers the opportunity to create virtual spaces identical to their real-world showrooms, either to display art for client viewing, or as an in-house planning tool for shows. Dealers keen to expand their premises in cyberspace can choose to create personalised, virtual galleries, while those on slimmer budgets can choose from three pre-designed private viewing rooms available for rent for days, months or years. “It’s not as powerful as if you’re standing in front of a work. We can’t replicate that, but we can take one step closer,” said Renet.

The service will also be available for artists who can lease ready-made 3D showrooms in an online “gallery hub”. “There are a lot of talented artists out there whose work isn’t necessarily very commercial, but who deserve to be seen,” said Renet.

Site security is a major concern, says Soto. Galleries can choose from multiple levels of encryption, from open public access to a “full-blown VPN [virtual private network] for the more elite galleries, which require a security level similar to something you would find in the department of defence.”

The art market rushed into online investments a decade ago, but rushed out again almost as quickly following major losses. After this dotcom bust, things went quiet until recently. Online art fair VIP opened to great fanfare in January, though went out with a whimper after technical “glitches” threatened to capsize the site. It will return, new and improved, next year say its organisers. Meanwhile, a virtual sales site, Art.sy, spearheaded by a consortium of the great and good including Larry Gagosian, Dasha Zhukova and former Google chief Eric Schmidt, is scheduled to launch later this year.

“Online is difficult. It hasn’t worked to date,” says Christophe van der Weghe’s Lara Ferb. But she says that ArtConnect3D “would be great as a planning tool, especially for art fairs”, adding that the 3D technology could be an improvement on the current practice of making maquettes to plan booth layouts. “We might actually hang our stand at an art fair the way we designed it—which never happens,” she said.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 224 May 2011