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Founder and chief executive officer Moti Shniberg has spent the past two years fine-tuning his plan to provide customized information to art lovers, dealers, collectors and artists. The by-invitation-only Web site officially bows in March, but members have already been signing up. A $300 annual fee allows members to track different categories of art or individual artists from thousands of sources. They will also get the heads-up about their areas of interest, whether that be exhibitions, lectures, opening parties, galas or auctions. But instead of being flooded with information, members can filter it in relation to their specific tastes. More than 250 publications, including Art Newspaper and Issue, have signed on so far as content providers. More than half of these aren't available through search engines, Shniberg said.
MutualArt.com also has signed partnerships with more than 120 museums — including the Guggenheim Museum, London's Tate, the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — to plug their exhibitions and to offer the news services to their patrons, and has partnered with leading private banks, auction houses and private cultural clubs. By the end of 2008, Shniberg expects to have 2,500 galleries signed up. Art Basel director Sam Keller said, "MutualArt.com helps to make the expanding art world a global village."
During an interview a few blocks from his Fifth Avenue office, Shniberg said, "Basically, it's the aggregation of information from many different sources."
With the help of special adviser Jerry Wind, the founder of the Executive MBA Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, more than 1,000 European and American art lovers were polled to see what they look for when buying art and what would make that process better.
Shniberg has assembled a heavyweight team to help him. Citigroup's co-head of investment banking Raymond J. McGuire is an investor and adviser, and banker Thomas Weisel and Warner Music U.S. head Lyon Cohen are investors. Shniberg also has been getting some guidance from Simone de Pury, chairman of Phillips de Pury & Co.; Lady Elena Foster, chairman of the Tate International Council; Ruth Kaplan, former deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art; Wenda Harris Millard, president, Media at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., and others. Their objective is to serve up information "that is only relevant to you," Shniberg said.