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publication: Picture Business, July / August 2001
Vive La Republic
Artrepublic.com says it is the one-stop shop for online art - but does that make it a corner shop or a department store? Stephen Spear reports.

A site that provides everything for the art lover? When it comes to retail, anyone who is prepared to spend money on art is an art lover and artrepublic,com knows it. While the product on sale is essentially serious art, the site still reaches a broad target audience. The wide variety of searches available cater for any consumer, no matter what their level of art knowledge or their reasons for buying. The confident customer can use the "search" facility to find the product they require by artist name, nationality and - bizarrely - gender, or by movement, medium, subject or title. The less confident consumer can employ the "browse" section to peruse the stock available.

Just browsing
And it's here that we find out what makes this site special. Clicking on the "browse posters" reveals 12 search categories. Of These, half are classified by movement. The rest are more eclectic: subject matter; photography; silk screen; vintage posters and Asian - all categories to furnish more idiosyncratic needs.

However, it was a click on the title "colours", that made me choke on my coffee.

Well researched and comprehensive, this is probably the best feature of the site. As well as particular hues, sections titled hot; warm; cool; light; dark; neutral and colourful are available to browse. This is just the ting if the customer wants to create or complement a mood.

In art retail such things are important, indeed, they are often all that the retailer has to go on. How often do consumers themselves not know which image they want - only that it should be conducive to something as amorphous as a "feeling?" You can't answer a customer's questions when you're not face to face, but a well-designed website can do much to presuppose their requirements.

I chose to search for an image for my new green kitchen and something colourful for a child's room. Clicking on "green" presented me with a list of 186 posters - an awful lot to inspect. While this could deter any customers with short attention spans, it is a small price to pay for a large choice of stock. These prints were obviously well researched as they were not solely predominantly green images like Monet's The Water Lilly Pond, but also those that only featured green. Roy Lichtenstein's Interior with Water Lilies, for example is a mostly purple image but would nonetheless be ideal for the appropriately green interior. Satisfied with this, the simple "click and buy" purchase added this image to my basket. Next I clicked on "colourful." 127 images this time, featuring Picasso, Marc and Kandinsky among others, Finally, I chose a more whimsical image by Keith Haring.

The search criteria are split between those designed for the customer who knows what they want and those that don't - an effective strategy. A quick server ensures that it is easy to find what you need and, quite frankly, fun, even if you don't.

Split Site
The division between retail and information services on the site means that the user can circumnavigate areas of little relevance. Once in the retail section, the front page is styled as a shop front, highlighting the artist and poster of the week. At the time of writing, al across the site barkers eagerly announce the onset of Father's Day, though quite why Joan Miro's Pochoir would be particularly appealing to a father I am not sure. Still, as good retailers say - any excuse for a sale is a good excuse.

The sales message, supplying everything for the art lover is ambitious and possibly problematic. What the site does do successfully is provide for every type of art lover. The concept of a holistic art site communicated by the wealth of information available - artist biographies, art terms explained and a guide to what's on worldwide. This is a site that will continue to accrue and keep customers. While the relatively populist feel of the site and the lack of an online framing service may deter some buyers, the sales pitch focused upon the consumer who spends "little and often" proves to be no bad thing. This is no niche market, after all, but a mainstream one.

 Art gallerie's prices:
  • You can buy this art gallery's cheapest item with $15
  • This art gallery's most expensive item goes for $150


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    email: info@artrepublic.com

    Accounts Department artrepublic.com (Archer Publication Ltd) 13 Bond Street Brighton BN1 1RD United Kingdom

    Tel: +44 1273 711057 Fax: +44 1273 746016

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