Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

July 4, 2001:
Virtual viewing
Buying art in the cyberage is easy, and the selection is great

By Rob Mackay '89

There are no lines at Kristina Baldwin Larson '93's exhibition space. Patrons can talk loudly or even touch the merchandise if they please. And their feet will never get tired. One viewing section is jam-packed with paintings, while in another, drawings predominate. Explore a little harder, and chambers full of photography, sculptures, ceramics, prints, jewelry, and even mixed media come to view.

Larson established www.artadvocate.com to give the public a fast and easy way to locate and/or buy original artwork. The Internet site also serves as an easy way for virtual virtuosos to peddle their pieces to the public. And if there's any interest, the potential purchaser can email the artist or schedule an appointment to see the desired item at Larson's gallery space in New York City. Prices range from $80 to $10,000.

"What I really like is that my site provides the opportunity for emerging artists to be discovered," says Larson, a history of science major who worked as a docent at the Art Museum while at Princeton. "I've got a lot of talent up there right now, [more than 50 artists] and the list keeps growing."

Similar to a real time, real world gallery, Larson charges sellers a rental fee and takes a small commission for each purchase. But free of charge, the site posts reviews by professional curators and serves as an information center for what's going on at museums, galleries, and art-related educational programs. Larson, who lives with her husband, Philip '92, and infant son Connor in Hoboken, New Jersey, focuses on the New York area, but she plans to expand into other urban areas in the future.

Just a year old, ArtAdvocate has already attracted major media attention. The site has been written up in Forbes, Working Woman, AlleyCat News, and New York Lawyer as well as being featured on a Fox News broadcast and an Oxygen Media program. The hype has led to at least one consulting jobs: Larson was recently hired by a London company to help establish an annual contemporary art fair in New York.

Larson also helped organize a silent auction and scotch-tasting at the Princeton Club of New York in October 2000. Now she hopes to do similar events with other Ivy League alumni groups, supervising fundraisers, and even giving guided walking tours of some of Gotham's hopping art districts. "The site has evolved a bit and taken on its own personality," says Larson, who is quick to admit that her talent is not in creating art, but in appreciating it. "But it's something that I love to do. Whether it grows bigger, or even if it stays small, I'll be happy."

And as she learns the ropes of the Internet and art worlds, she's noticing that her own taste is changing. "I used to be fond of representational work above all else," she says. "Now I'm more adventurous. And I've become one of my best customers. We need a bigger house now to store all the art I've bought."

Rob MacKay, is an editor at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in Queens, New York. He can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com.