Italian art retailer opens online gallery

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ROME--Arte E, one of Italy's largest art retailers, has launched the online gallery in an attempt to open up new markets. allows customers to admire and buy paintings from a database expected to include 3,000 works by the end of the year. "We already have a lot of experience in bringing art to people," says founder Marilena Ferrari. "This is a natural step."

One goal of the online gallery is to cultivate an interest in art so that a new generation of people will admire art and become customers of the company's traditional business as well, says Ms. Ferrari.

Arte E declined to put a price tag on the value of the new project or on the publicity efforts that will go along with it, though one company official says the investment would be "substantial".

The Bologna-based company, whose name means "Art Is" in Italian, has sold works of art to an estimated 23,000 first-time customers since opening for business in 1993. Arte E's 1999 revenue was $17.6 million, up 43% on the previous year.

The company has other changes in store, including leasing paintings and plans to list the company's shares on Italy's Nuovo Mercato for fast-growing companies, says Ms. Ferrari.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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