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Internet adds new chapter to modern art story

By Andrew Horesh for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Caroline Wright, 24, a talented emerging artist from Texas, uploads photos of her paintings to her new profile at the Your Gallery section of the Saatchi Web site. The site is a virtual network (a kind of MySpace spin off) created by the famed British art dealer Charles Saatchi.

The Web site showcases her work to the right people -- artists, collectors and dealers.

Caroline's own homepage hardly receives as many site visits as Your Gallery, which averages around 3 million hits per day. "The Internet has become such a resource for getting your work out to a greater audience." says Caroline.

Your Gallery is not alone or even the first in seizing the promotional potential of the Internet., launched years earlier by a group of artists, provides an Internet hub for artists and gallery owners. "Getting recognized as an artist is really about who you are connected to," says the Re-title's managing director Steve Rushton. "Re-title is primarily so artists can list their work and get the publicity they deserve."

But it's the name Saatchi, which separates Your Gallery from the pack. Originally an advertising entrepreneur, Saatchi joined the art world and turned artistic unknowns like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin into art world superstars -- Saatchi has since earned a reputation for uncovering fresh talent.

"Charles looks at every student page," says Kieran McCann, creative director of the gallery. Though Saatchi has put a hold on buying any work himself, the chance of being seen and referred by him generates a buzz.

The Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London recently bought one painting by Ben Young, a student London's leading art college Central Saint Martins, for just under $2000. The site has also facilitated communication among artists that eventually led to an exhibition at the London Brick Lane Gallery.

For an artist, being picked up and turned into an overnight success is still rare. "I have not exhausted all my channels for finding new art" says a London based contemporary art curator, "trawling through to find new things is difficult on the site." And the integrity of artists' profiles on the site is difficult to assess.

Early on British artist Damien Hirst had what might have been a site with a note saying, "to test the system and protect my name." The profile has since been removed. It might not be Saatchi but the Internet as a platform for participation and networking adds a new chapter for the story of modern art.

The exhibition of art has moved from the hallowed halls of museums to the neutral white walls of the galleries to the unconfined great outdoors and now onto the World Wide Web. Saatchi has rumbled the art market, catapulting artists from anonymity to fame and is now transforming how art is bought, sold and displayed.


"Debris," by Caroline Wright



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