Business duo Alan Chatham and Mark Billingham, the men who changed the skyline of Birmingham with the Mailbox development, are branching out into the world of art.
The intrepid pair, along with art gallery stalwart Graham Finch, are the men behind Blutulip.com, a new online art enterprise set to transform trade between galleries.
Blutulip.com has launched this month and claims to “provide a unique and much needed additional way for galleries to trade with each other.”
The online art venture marks a new change of direction for Chatham and Billingham, who carved their business reputation with the Mailbox scheme.
The pair bought the 850,000 sq ft former Royal Mail sorting office for £4 million in April 1998 and developed the Mailbox, which became a symbol of Birmingham’s rebirth, bringing the likes of Harvey Nichols and Armani to the city.
The upmarket shopping, bar and restaurant complex was sold to Brockton Capital last year for over £127 million.
More recently, the pair revealed plans to turn the former Birmingham Post and Mail printing works in the city centre into an 800-space six-level underground car park and build a high-rise tower.
Now they have turned their attentions from major city centre developments to the digital world – with an online art venture.
The website works by opening up galleries’ showrooms to give them the opportunity to buy and sell their existing stock to other galleries. This will allow galleries to free up space, and money, to buy into new collections.
Blutulip.com’s founder, Graham Finch, former Group Director of Washington Green & Castle Galleries, said: “Residual stock is a real issue for gallery owners. If they cannot shift their current stock it makes it more difficult for them to invest in new art.
“There are also big regional differences in demand for certain works and certain artists. It may be that a gallery in Brighton, for example, has sold out of a limited edition print, but they still have demand for that print from their local customer base.
“If that gallery goes back to the publisher the likelihood is that that print will be listed as ‘sold out’ because they have all been sold to trade.
“However, a gallery in Exeter may still have some of those prints available that they are having difficulty selling on to the consumer. Blutulip.com will therefore help match the supply and demand.”
Research carried out by Blutulip.com shows that 90 per cent of art galleries hold stock for longer than they would like, while 78 per cent say slow moving stock is a major issue for them.
Mark Billingham said: “It was clear to us that Graham had spotted a niche in the market, and had come up with a solution to a problem that the majority of gallery owners face.
“The art world has proved itself to be relatively recession-proof, and has significant profit potential.
“Blutulip.com aims to enable the industry to grow and to help break down some of the economic barriers independent art galleries face on a daily basis.”