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Megan Murphy is making art available for the masses.


Megan Murphy is making art available for the masses.

Too many people believe that art collecting is only for the rich, and too few artists are able to make a living doing what they love. Vexed by this problem, a 36-year-old painter named Megan Murphy recently decided to take her grievances to the internet. But instead of a whiney blog, she began a business. As the founder and digital curator of Artocracy.org, a website that allows regular folks to buy affordable, cutting-edge, original art, Murphy has brought in nearly 65 artists with the promise of extra income and exposure.By selling digital copies and prints of her artists' work for as low as $30 and as high as $290, Murphy has discovered a market-based solution to both the public's reticence to seek out original art because of high prices and a problematic gallery-centric system that edges out lesser-known artists. "I mainly want people to be interested in art," says Murphy, "and with Artocracy, we're using capitalism in a good way."
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I mainly want people to be interested in art. And with Artocracy, we're using capitalism in a good way.
The wall-art market, which includes everything from dorm-room posters of Klimt's The Kiss to Crate & Barrel candleholders, has become a $35 billion enterprise. Murphy realized that budding artists-those not supported by arts endowments or the backing ofgalleries-ought to be taking advantage of a market that already exists, rather than pinning their hopes on the rare gallery slot.In 2004, she launched Artocracy with a stable of 10 artists. Murphy offered customers a high-resolution printable PDF-which, while not the greatest way to buy a piece of art, certainly beats dropping thousands of dollars at a gallery. Since then, Murphy has added more artists and started selling framed prints of their work. She has sold a hundred pieces for her artists and takes only 25 percent of the proceeds rather than the traditional 50 percent that a gallery would keep from a sale. Murphy still sells her paintings in the traditional manner and is quick to describe her entrepreneurship as "not anti-gallery, but pre-gallery," a kind of middle ground between the world of wall art and the blue-chip galleries in New York."The gallery system is a great system for people who can afford it," she says, "but fewer and fewer people can." Murphy believes that the inexpensive prices and accessibility of Artocracy have the power to democratize the art world. Rochelle Ratner, a New York-based photographer whose work is featured on the site, says, "What Artocracy.org offers is almost a course in contemporary art." But in this course, anyone can take the artwork home.LEARN MORE artocracy.org
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