YORK contemporary art gallery According To McGee is going global, moving into selling art online and planning a 2012 biennale in China.

“This is probably the biggest jump forward we’ve ever done,” says Greg McGee, co-director of the gallery in Tower Street. “The nature of the ambitions, and the nature of the commercial landscape we’re operating in, have meant that we’re realising the old adage ‘strength in numbers’ is probably the most valid cliché on offer for ambitious art galleries today.”

The McGee gallery has launched its ecommerce site, an online gallery that promises to “sell our exhibiting artists with as much ‘proactivity’ and chutzpah as Glengarry Glen Ross, but without the swearing”.

To make that happen, Greg and co-director Ails McGee have joined forces with York ecommerce agency pioneers The Distance. “The Distance’s co-director, Ryan Atkins, has been the sole driving force for the move into selling online,” says Greg.

“He took a real leap of faith, bearing in mind these are edgy, contemporary and at times puzzling works of art, but selling online is in his DNA. He has an eagle’s eye for delivering a product and can connect extremely well with buyers.”

Ails takes up the point. “We may have in the past been a little woolly about selling art but The Distance have really lived up to their name,” she says. “They gave us a kick in the pants and focused our aims, guiding us every step of the way into getting a slick and successful online gallery up and running.”

Ryan, 20, who has two nominations for The Press Business Awards to his name already, runs The Distance agency with co-director Anthony Main, 29, with the ethos of “Go The Distance”. Forming the relationship with According To McGee to sell art online represents a new challenge.

“It’s a challenge we’re relishing,” says Ryan. “We’re working towards establishing who their online customers could be and finding out how we can capture their attention. No easy task, one made easier, however, by the quality of According To McGee’s offering.”

The launch of the online gallery dovetails with According To McGee’s latest exhibition, New Visuality, which opened last Friday. On display are works from 23 artists culled from a series of graduate art shows in the summer that will then be shipped to China late next year.

“This is the elite, the top 23 of what we consider to be the most collectable young artists of the year,” says Greg. “We’re delighted with the calibre. There’s something for everyone. Ceramicists, illustrators, jewellers, painters, textile designers. It’s a national show, and it’s right here in the centre of York.

“Names like Daniela Cardillo, Roisin Connolly and Masazumi Yamazaki are set to be recognised and celebrated names in their field. We’re offering the opportunity for buyers to invest in their work now, while the time is right. The UK art scene is in fine fettle, and we like to think we work at the cultural coalfield so you don’t have to.”

The Chinese opportunity has come about after the York gallery caught the attention of collectors over there, who then flagged up the McGees’ art portfolio to Max Sanderson, creative director of the Chinese-based company Stage Live Asia.

After a year of planning and negotiations, Stage Live are organising three commercial art fairs in the Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, all curated by the McGee gallery.

“We’re making astonishing progress over here in China, and the direction According To McGee is going in is ideal for what we’ve got in mind for running a Chinese-based biennale,” says Max. “There’s a lot of interest in this kind of stamp of approval from a UK gallery.”

Ails concurs. “Our New Visuality show is ideally suited to what’s expected. Lots of Chinese collectors want to see the top slice of UK contemporary art, and we’re honoured – and a little nervous – to be passed this baton.”

According to Greg, the New Visuality in China partnership is the result of serendipity rather than sophisticated business planning. “At times like these, all the planets line up and ba-da-bing, there’s the opportunity!” he says. “There’s a gladiatorial quality in having to step up to the plate, but we’d have perhaps fumbled the baton if it weren’t for the coaching of Dr Michael Bewell from York’s Mindcogs.

“We quailed a little with this complicated challenge. China is a long way away, and we know very little about it, so we needed a little business coaching.”

The work will be on show in York until January 29 next year, and among the rising talents selected for exhibit alongside Daniela Cardilo, Roisin Connolly and Masazumi Yamazaki are Nicola Crawford, Maria Puga, Helen Dobson, Gin Durham, Eleanor Osborne, Mirjana Smith, Agnes Stevens, Samantha Wilson, Malin Ohlsson, Jon Hopper, Rebecca Rasmussen, Amy Dransfield, Adele Beuscher, Katy Jennings, Angie Thirkell, Louise Collis, Karen Perry, Rosie Milner and Rhiannon Williams.