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The Virtual Art Walk

Collecting clicks with ArtQuiver.

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My personal feeling is that people are a little intimidated by the traditional art-gallery scene,” Max Schenck says. “But they still prioritize design and want to have art in their homes.”

The founder of the Charlottesville-based ArtQuiver hopes and believes that the computer screen will change the way people buy visual art. His online gallery sells contemporary works to the real world via the virtual one.

Since its launch in April, ArtQuiver (www.artquiver.com) has grown from a collection of 25 pioneering artists to 70 with one or two additions a week. To be represented, artists submit portfolios for inclusion on the site. The work shown is “all-original, contemporary, one-of-a-kind art work,” Schenck says. “The work has to be exclusive to us and not hang on a gallery wall somewhere.”

His business plan has run into its share of naysayers. “People also [once] said, ‘Well you can't sell clothes online, you can't even touch them,'” he says.

Prices vary from $200 to $20,000. ArtQuiver doesn't have an exclusive contract with the artists, who may show anywhere and be represented by whomever they want. It's only the paintings listed on the site that are exclusive to the ArtQuiver audience. 

The site presents a host of options — such as search engines that operate with detailed algorithms that elicit what's common for the viewer's likes and dislikes, thus selecting art based on preference. “People sometimes don't know what they like, but they know what they don't like,” Schenck says.

Viewers also can search by style, theme or artist, all the while compiling works to be viewed in virtual galleries, where realistic-looking mock-ups complete with track lighting and people standing in the way.

As for the hors d'oeuvres one expects from an actual gallery opening, ArtQuiver plans a nationwide marketing campaign offering gift cards for free wine and cheese with first purchases. And the company still goes the traditional route, maintaining a familiar identity with regular art events every Thursday in its Charlottesville gallery when new work is posted. “We want the artists to be accessible,” Schenck says. “We don't see ourselves as a replacement to traditional galleries.”

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