NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- While the art world is notorious for being closed off and intimidating to outsiders, a fleet of recently launched start-ups -- following Google's ( GOOG) lead -- is using technology to reach a new generation of art lovers. Launched in February, Google's Art Project allows any person with a Web connection to explore famous pieces from the world's most renowned museums -- including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following on this central idea of making great art accessible, this new generation of start-ups is betting that consumers will purchase paintings and sculptures they find online. Artspace, a New York-based firm launched in March by former DailyCandy COO Catherine Levene and her business partner Chris Vroom, is an online art marketplace offering contemporary pieces from $200 to $10,000. The site targets affluent consumers who are interested in art, but lack access to buy because of their geographic proximity to galleries. "Art is such a fragmented market online and it's inaccessible for many people, because galleries are local and there are so many different galleries that represent only a few artists at a time," said Levene, whose experience studying art history in Madrid after selling Daily Candy to Comcast ( CMCSA) in 2008 inspired her to create Artspace. "The Internet is the perfect medium to aggregate all this incredible art." The site has more than 130 pieces of limited edition and original artworks by known artists like Chuck Close, whose portrait paintings resemble photos, and Eric Fischl, whose pieces reflect the dark side of suburbia. Work from emerging artists is also available, and is hand-selected from a team of curators located across the country. Artspace also collaborates with institutions like the Guggenheim in New York City and the Brooklyn Museum to market prints that complement the museums' exhibit programming. The company, backed by investors including MTV founder Bob Pittman, also works directly with artists to produce works exclusive to the site.
"Grand Central" by Dough Geraghty is available on Artspace.
Artsicle, another New York start-up based in incubator Dogpatch Labs, takes a different approach, allowing users to rent artwork for $50 before committing to purchase them. The site seeks out relatively unknown artists -- typically recent Master of Fine Art graduates found through referrals and open studios -- and sells pieces for $500 to $2,000. CEO and co-founder Alexis Tryon said she was encouraged to start Artsicle after trying to purchase a print at a downtown Manhattan gallery and experiencing a difficult time getting the staff to take her seriously. "We're in this to create a new class of collectors and to create exposure for artists that have none," said Tryon, who left her job at American Express ( AXP) to launch Artisicle last month.