The commercially oriented site features works by some 200 lesser-known and established artists, art news, and information about contemporary art. NextMonet chief executive and founder Myrna Nickelsen said she expects to have works from some 750 artists worldwide by the end of the year.
The site is aimed at affluent younger people who are buying their first homes. Nickelsen said the problem those people face right now is that art galleries in the real world often have limited selections and can be intimidating to first-time buyers.
"The Net seemed like a way to get to people and educate them," she said.
NextMonet's launch comes amidst a number of recent moves in the online art market.
Last month, Getty Images bought its way into the online images market by purchasing Art.com. eBay and Amazon.com have also jumped in by teaming up with offline auction houses Butterfield & Butterfield and Sotheby's, respectively.
Despite all the action, the online art market is still in its nascent stages, according to Jupiter Communications analyst Mike May.
One of the challenges NextMonet and others face is trying to sell items that range from several hundred to several thousand dollars--based just on a low resolution picture. "Presumably this is a purchase that people would want to see and somewhat experience before making a transaction," May said.
Still, the galleries could increase the size of the overall art market by making art more accessible to the unacquainted, May said. Virtual galleries may enable shoppers to search for art based on a wide range of criteria, he said, allowing buyers to identify art based on color or size, in addition to artist or theme.
"It seems to me the right experience could lure would-be collectors," he said.