U.S. News

Web Site Offers Artistic Approach to Investing

Linda R. Sittenfeld, Senior Producer

If you're an art lover and are looking for an alternative to stocks or real estate, investing in art might be the way to go. But where do you find all the investing information you need? A new Web site called MutualArt.com can help. Moti Shniberg, CEO of Mutual Art explains.

How did you get this idea?
Six years ago I started to collect art and realized that artists have a very insecure future. So in 2003 I founded Artist Pension Trust (APT), a pension fund for artists operating in 40 countries and with 700 participating artists. Through APT, artists around the world can benefit from the donation of artwork to the trust.

I also realized that there is no right place to go for all the information on art collecting. And I founded MutualArt.

What is MutualArt?
It's the biggest aggregation of art on the web, using unique and advanced technology.

With a surge in overall net wealth and an abundance of baby boomers about to inherit money, interest in art collecting is at an all time high. And the people entering into this art world are accustomed to having access to an abundance of information at their fingertips.

MutualArt.com utilizes state-of-the-art semantic web technology, allowing for the customization of this abundance of information. This technology provides users with individual content streams, alerts and recommendations. Interested in an emerging artist? MutualArt.com alerts members any time there is an article, exhibit or other new information about the artist. The site was created by a team of scientists and computer specialists, including one who developed text mining for Israel's intelligence agency that scans the internet to monitor terrorist activity. This makes MutualArt.com the first major application of the semantic web to a consumer service.

Who is MutualArt?
MutualArt has recruited top talent from all aspects of the industry, including leading technologists, financiers, museum professionals and educators. The executive/advisory team consists of Wenda Millard (formerly of Yahoo!, President of Martha Stewart), Dean Harris (Vonage, Kayak, HotJobs), Ben Crawford (LTB Media) Jerry Wind (Wharton School/Philadelphia Museum of Art).

What will users find on MutualArt.com?
This is the largest aggregator of information for art collectors. The site has over 150,000 art-related articles, drawing content from 250 resources (including magazines, catalogues, newspapers, gallery listings, auction house sales, collector information, etc.), half of which is not available anywhere else on the web.

MutualArt is partnered with 200 museums and 1,200 galleries, including the Guggenheim, Whitney, Rijksmuseum and Tate.

Each user can register his own preferences - artists or genre. Then you'll get customized information - articles from hundreds of newspapers around the world, what's on exhibit, what's for sale.

And if you're flying around the world you can find out what's going on in Paris, or Bangkok, or anywhere, whether it's an exhibit or a new book out on your artist.

What's the business model?
Membership is by invitation only. Museum members at our partner museums get invitations. Membership costs $300. With membership you get a sort of art concierge service - storage, service, anything related to the art market.

Are you profitable yet?
We started the company two years ago, and launched the website two months ago. We expect to be profitable in the middle of 2009,

Where did you get your startup funding?
From serious collectors. Current investors include executives from Citicorp, Warner Music Group and Thomas Weisel Partners. The appeal to investors is multifold.