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09/30/2001 - SculptureGallery.Com Is Virtual Atelier

SculptureGallery.com has a “by appointment only” show room on the skywalk level in the Old City Hall building at 221 North Wall. This Terabyte Triangle showroom contains only a minor fraction of the sculptures available from SculptureGallery.com, a virtual atelier operated in cyberspace by Will Murray. On display are samples of sculptures, from the ancient Greek to contemporary American, that have been made available for web site photography.

Fueled by the power of the Internet, Murray runs the business out of his spare bedroom. The business has no employees, almost no inventory, and no warehouse, but it sells three-dimensional art all over the world.

SculptureGallery.com is a correct description of what the company is-it is a sculpture gallery, with sculptures for sale, but instead of looking at the art in a brick and mortar gallery, you look at it on the SculptureGallery.com web site. Many of the sculptures are replicas and reproductions of famous work by famous artists. Some are miniatures; others are full size. It’s a lot like catalogue mail order except that on the Internet you get to look at all sides-like walking around a sculpture in a brick and mortar gallery. If you wanted, you could place a sculpture in your virtual living room, walk around it, and determine whether or not it went well with your sofa.

Murray has spent hundreds of hours, over several years, building the SculptureGallery.com web site. Built on several virtual levels to make browsing as easy as at the museum store, the shopper can browse by category, genre, sculptural material, and artist, or by alphabetical listing. “Most people arrive at the web site just browsing,” says Murray. “They may make several visits before deciding they want to buy.” When a shopper finds something to buy, the order may be placed on-line, by fax, telephone, or mail. “The whole business is based on Fed Ex and Visa,” says Murray. “We can sell sculpture anywhere in the world that has a Fed Ex drop point and to anyone with a Visa card.”

But how can you sell and ship sculpture without employees or inventory? Murray is actually a broker. He has an alliance with various sculpture manufacturers whose merchandise is pictured in his on-line catalogue. When an order is placed, Murray contacts the manufacturer, who then ships the art directly to the purchaser. As the middleman, Murray receives a commission. For another line of sculpture created in the Orient, Murray acts as a sales agent for the importer. Although he’s placed sculpture in many parts of the world, Murray says his biggest clientele is in Southern California, followed by Texas and Florida. Most of his browsers come through either Google or Yahoo, and at least half of his visitors and buyers are AOL users.

Murray believes that anyone can succeed at a virtual business and run it from almost anywhere-although the bandwidth available in the Terabyte Triangle is a distinct advantage. Starting with a fairly narrow and well-defined niche is important. “Don’t try to compete with Wal-Mart,” he cautions. Build a professional looking; easy to browse web site, and give it a name that tells the causal looker something about what the business is all about. The next key to success is good promotion with search engines. This may require professional help, and, Murray says, is worth whatever it costs. Having a computer “guru” available who will come and help when the whole thing crashes (for a fee, of course) is a must. Following that, have a good web host-one that is in the near geographical area-with whom you have a good business relationship. Then, when it all works, a virtual business can earn real money.

To browse the full catalogue, go to http://www.sculpturegallery.com/sculpturegallery.html. Murray also has the catalogue on CD for those with a slow modem connection.

Billie Moreland
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