Artevo abruptly closes downtown art gallery

Artevo Corp., an art procurement, production and distribution company that opened a retail gallery to much fanfare 18 months ago in the downtown Bay Centre, abruptly closed its doors just prior to Christmas.

A statement of claim filed by lenders Dec. 14 against Artevo asked for immediate repayment of $800,000 in loans and the appointment of a receiver. Trading of the company's shares on the TSX Venture Exchange was halted the next day and all four Artevo directors resigned.

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Calls to Artevo's Calgary office were not returned, although messages were being taken and the website was still active.

Artevo opened in the former Villeroy & Boch china store on the Fort Street side of the Bay Centre in June 2008, the first of a planned chain of galleries that the company claimed would revolutionize the art industry by providing giclee reproductions to the masses and a portal for hundreds of artists to sell their work -- similar to what Amazon has done for authors and buyers in the sale of books. Giclee reproductions are fine art prints made from a digital source using ink-jet printing.

By all accounts, the store proved popular, carrying a wide array of art and sculptures by artists such as Charles Billich, Jennifer Grant and Toller Cranston. It also had exclusive rights to reproduce the artwork of Dr. Seuss.

In late October, Artevo hosted a three-day showing of Jane Seymour's work and brought the famous actress to Victoria where dozens of fans crowded the gallery to buy her books, get autographs and view her sculptures and water colours.

Artevo CEO and president Christopher Talbot said in an interview prior to opening that his company had secured deals with 200 artists and had the rights to more than 4,000 pieces of fine art. Stores were being planned for Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles, although none were opened. At the time, Talbot said the company raised $16 million in a private capital pool to go public.

The website describes the business as "more than an art company, Artevo is a technology-driven marketing company. Talbot told the Times Colonist in 2008 that art is the largest cottage industry in the world, but hasn't seen any significant changes in centuries. He said the term starving artist endures because most have limited, if any, time to show and sell their work in traditional galleries.

By selling reproductions using computer-controlled printers, Talbot said Artevo would make the art more affordable. The plan was to tap home and condo owners during the building boom as well as the corporate world and interior-design industry.

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