So, it’s up. The world’s first “online art fair.” What do you think?
I’ve been browsing it for the last half hour. I would’ve done so earlier today, or yesterday, but the site was…. down. FAIL! I suppose that is the real life equivalent of, hmmm, building power outage? Art fairs themselves have only recently become an accepted and must-do event. A one stop shop for art lovers, where a collector can go to just one place (or city, as the satellite fairs are growing), rather than having to travel the world to visit all the participants. But now, are we even lazier? Do we want to do all of this in the privacy of our own homes? And do digital galleries suffice to experiencing art in person?
I personally send out a consignments email every so often to a list of clients. Who in turn ask questions, then if I am lucky, purchase art works site unseen, based solely on descriptions, jpegs and reputation (of the artist and myself). I’ve noticed over the years that many people are comfortable doing business in this way. We are used to buying clothing, books, gifts and perfumes online. We pay our bills online, communicate to our families, take classes and ask our crushes out on dates via Facebook rather than in person. It has become something that just seems “natural” at this point, and saves time- as I’d rather order books while eating lunch and browsing Amazon, as opposed to getting on the train and spending an hour browsing through Strand. (wait, that sounds sort of lovely, but in my current world of hustling to try to get my own business started, that hour is precious).
So why not art, even though it is something that is supposed to be so visceral, something that we have an emotional reaction to, or (according to Wikipedia) “is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect”? Do we really not even need to experience art to, experience art?
Of course art fairs themselves bring on mixed feelings. They can be trade show-y. Booth after booth after cube of the same shit. Pushy sales people hustling instead of hiding behind their usual art world pretension. But also, there are also the galleries and groups that go above that, who take advantage of the unique grouping of international visitors and exhibitors, and do things to wow us and set themselves apart from the rest. I’ve always had favorites that I remember for years after year, and they are always the ones who have the more experiential booths.
So, is that possible with a virtual art fair? The VIP (View in Private) Fair is “open” to the public. Anyone can create an account and sign on, browse the galleries and the art. There are some major hard hitters on there- I saw Duchamp’s LHOOQ , pieces by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Cory Archangel, Win Devoye, a Duane Hanson (The Teenager) which I saw at Art Basel Miami 2009. They “price range” is available- for the Duchamp it’s a vague $250,000-$500,000. But to contact a gallery, it’ll cost you, unless you have a pass. There is a chat feature, which didn’t work all day. In fact I just received an email (at 12:35 am) explaining that they are trying to make the chat feature work, hopefully tomorrow. But do I care? So, I’ve been able to see a bunch of jpegs online. Can’t I do that already? Aside from the experiential facet of seeing a piece of art in person, part of the thrill and attraction to the art world is the cast of characters one gets to engage in their lives. Hell, that is a major part of why I’m involved in it, I’ve met so many interesting, smart and fun people through art- cut that out, and its just buying and selling. Where is the fun in that?
Maybe this virtual fair idea is suitable for the investor type buyers, who treat art as they do stocks. But I’d rather have endless blisters from walking the whole of Basel in inappropriate heels with a wicked hang over from Miami’s only dive bar while simultaneously avoiding certain people/looking for friends in a sea of box after box of art while carrying an overpriced plastic flute of champagne than sit on my couch in my quitter’s pajamas (as I am now) while watching Friends and surf a “virtual fair”. BORING.