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The Independent Online
There were no men in dustcoats holding up this work of art, and the successful bidders took away nothing but an envelope containing a secret access code to a site on the Internet and a note from the artist.

The world's first auction of virtual art took place last week in Paris - at least, that's where the picture for sale was projected on the wall. But it was also conducted live on the Net, so it could be said to have happened in cyberspace. And the picture going under the hammer exists only on a screen, at least for now.

Parcelle/Reseau (Parcel/Network), by Fred Forest, a 60-year-old French university teacher and multimedia artist, is an image of a human figure carrying a transparent rectangle across a cobbled floor, set against a dark, dusk-blue background.

The winning bidders, Antoine Beaussant and Bruno Chabal, paid 58,000 francs (pounds 7,000) for the right to access the work. "This is a great price, especially since there's no precedent," said auctioneer Jean-Claude Binoche, of the Drouot auction house.

"It may be virtual art but it's not going to remain virtual for very long," the buyers, both of whom work in Internet-related businesses, said afterwards. "We plan to make it available on the Internet on a pretty wide scale."

"This piece makes perfect sense," Chabal said. "I spend 10 times more time in front of my computer than in front of the TV." They now have the right to print and sell copies of the work.