At the recent opening of Gallery.sg, there was art on the walls, an endless flow of wine and more than 100 guests in attendance.
Except, one could not taste the wine and visitors to the gallery, open 24 hours a day, all wore similar pink outfits in the computer-simulated gallery.
Welcome to the brave new world of online art galleries.
Gallery.sg is a virtual art gallery built on a multi- player gaming platform by home-grown multimedia artist Eugene Soh. The site, which went live in the middle of this month, is the latest among a growing number of online art galleries based here that have launched recently.
Newcomers include Art Loft and The Artling, swish online art galleries cast in the mould of Internet retail sites, which specialise in fine art priced below US$10,000 (S$12,560). A fourth one, ArtBank, offers decorative art and made-to-order paintings.
For most online art gallery start-ups, the lucrative market is what makes them take the leap of faith into cyberspace.
In the latest online art market report released yesterday by British insurer Hiscox, which underwrites cover for fine art, global online art sales is projected to more than double to US$3.76 billion in the next five years.
The report, in conjunction with art market research company ArtTactic, estimates global online art sales last year to be worth US$1.57 billion or 2.4 per cent of the global art market with an estimated worth of US$65 billion.
Businesses hungry for a slice of the pie have been busy. In 2012, no fewer than 300 online art ventures were launched on the Internet, based on an art and finance report issued last year by global financial firm Deloitte and ArtTactic.
Even Internet retail giant Amazon has joined in the fray, launching a full-fledged fine art portal last year after first dipping its toes into the business with a pilot scheme that ran from 2000 to 2001 in partnership with auctioneer Sotheby's.
Here, online galleries have set up base as early as 2008. But many of these early players, no fewer than five, have shut down their sites or become inactive.