You (Yes, You) Can Be an Art Collector 

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When I reached Adam Brown, a press contact at Etsy, by telephone, he explained that he saw the site's main shortcoming as the inability to see something before you buy it. As far as curation and filtering out the good from the meh, some areas and systems help the best work rise to the top. "There are certain sections of the site that we do curate," Brown explained, "we also have gift guides accessible from the homepage, and those are all handpicked by the staff here." And ultimately the site's inclusive nature makes it easier to find the good stuff. As Brown put it: "Etsy becomes more useful the more people use it."

Funnily enough, Sto from Cinders remembered being invited to guest curate a page at Etsy once. "It took me hours of searching to find something I liked," he explained, "but once I found an artist whose stuff I liked, then it was really easy to look at artists they liked and find more interesting work." He continued: "I know at least two people who live in small towns and make a living by selling their work on Etsy." For patient viewers, then, it's a one-stop art shop, but the inability to see the work in person, and the fluidly structured and often unclear curation systems can make it hard to find art you're sure you'll like. Plus, from a soulless "art market" point of view, it's impossible to know what artworks will appreciate in value as artists' careers continue.

20x200
Regarded by many as the first site to successfully create a comprehensive and broad online art store that retained a strong curatorial direction and high level of quality, Soho gallerist Jen Bekman's 20x200 launched in earnest back in the fall of 2007, selling limited editions of artists works in different sizes ranging from $20 to $2,000. The current show at Bekman's Spring Street gallery, Mixtape (through January 9), showcases 45 works added to the site in recent months, including pieces by William Swanson, Tyson Anthony Roberts, Scott Listfield, Jorge Colombo and James Griffioen. The site offers an impressive range of art from very accessible works like Colombo's street scenes drawn on his iPhone (like his famous New Yorker cover) to more conceptual creations like Brooklyn-based artist Mike Estabrook's Google image searches. Though pieces bought through 20x200 aren't likely to appreciate in value like works from the AMC might, it's a much cheaper option, plus you know exactly what you're getting.

Others
Increasingly, galleries are offering editions, prints and cheaper works through online stores on their websites, and some terrific street art and illustration galleries are leading the way. Bushwick galleries Ad Hoc Art and Factory Fresh, for instance, both offer original works and prints through their websites. Factory Fresh's online inventory features mostly original works (and some T-shirts) by the slate of graffiti artists and painters who've had exhibitions with the gallery. Pieces can range anywhere between $15,000 for a more traditional expressionist oil painting of a street scene by Tim Kent to just $30 for a screenprint by Armer from the gallery's current exhibition.

Ad Hoc Art also keeps a vast online inventory of works by the gallery's artists and those who've been featured in past exhibitions. So there are pieces by emerging Brooklyn artists going for $100 or less, but also some art by cross-over art stars who got their start in street art, like Swoon (!). Another of my favorite galleries, Jonathan LeVine in Chelsea, offers an amazing selection of original works and prints through their website, including works as affordable as Nouar's portrait of a tomato lady "What a Tomato" to an elaborate portfolio by Ron English for $1,200. Whatever your budget or taste, there's never been a better time to get involved in the art world and start giving back to the artists you like. Whether it's $5 every few months or $200 every other week, you can get great work for your money.

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