New York-based art e-commerce firm VIP Art has laid off 50 percent of its staff. The company had employed a dozen people, half of whom were let go at the beginning of this month, according to a company founder.

Founded by New York dealers James and Jane Cohan along with Internet entrepreneurs Jonas and Alessandra Almgren, the company launched in 2011.

 

"It's obviously upsetting to lose good people, but it was a smart move to get a little leaner," Jane Cohan told A.i.A. by phone today. "The size of the staff reflected our ambitions, but the reality of the situation is that it's going to be a slower build. So we're at a more sustainable size now. But we're not going away."


VIP at first offered a once-a-year Internet fair, Viewing In Private, during January 2011. Jane Cohan told A.i.A. that the two couples had worked on developing the concept for three years.

The first outing was plagued with serious technical problems, and the fair refunded a good deal of money to the 139 participating dealers.

Still, 135 galleries signed up for VIP 2.0, in February 2012, and some dealers told A.i.A. that the new contacts they garnered during the fair's two outings were valuable, though none confirmed any sales.

Last month, the company announced that it would change gears, remaining open online year-round rather than offering an annual fair, and it changed its name to VIP Art.

Entrepreneurs trying to monetize and open up the art world, like Gallerist, art.sy and Paddle8, know they face an uphill battle. "It's like being in a movie," art.sy's Carter Cleveland told the New York Observer in 2011. "The knight is walking into the dragon's lair and seeing the corpses of all the other knights that came before."