The new privileged location of art galleries: Internet | Arts

Last March, amid widespread uncertainty and concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, many high-profile galleries, including Lévy Gorvy’s Old Bond Street location and Pace Gallery’s Chelsea outpost, closed their doors to the public. Now, six months later, despite the lingering shadow of COVID-19, many art galleries have opened their physical spaces, but only by appointment. Meanwhile, from the Old Masters to the 20th century, from London to Shanghai, virtual exhibitions are flourishing on the internet. In an industry marked by ever-changing trends and rapid, aggressive development, it’s no surprise that in the face of mandatory restrictions and lingering angst, dozens of art galleries have quickly embraced and thrived on exhibitions. virtual.

Unhindered by changing lighting conditions and display labels sticking out from the walls, galleries have taken advantage of the internet to showcase their art in the best conditions. Such superlative online platforms then beg the question: without the unequivocal signs of success associated with prime physical locations such as Mayfair in London and Madison Avenue in New York, or the distinct potential of striking storefronts and glass walls telling, how do the galleries distinguish themselves from each other? It turns out that’s often not the case. Visit the websites of David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, white cubeand others – most of which are free – and little different digital experiences will occur: captioned as “viewing room”, “online exhibition” or “digital catalog”, the subpages are essentially long-scrolling sites composed of alternating images and words with interspersed slideshows and videos and – the funniest identical feature of all – quotes set in their own distinct text boxes.

Admittedly, some digital galleries offer other forms of navigation; one can participate in virtual tours, click on arrows similar to those of Google Maps, or use augmented reality tools, project works anywhere and everywhere. With illuminated screens as well as rows of zeros and ones serving as a guideline, viewers can virtually wander through near-normal, pre-pandemic gallery environments or view coveted but expensive works of art on their private walls. Of course, continuously scrolling a web page is almost always an option.

Surprisingly, in the age of social distancing, galleries have come closer – commercially – to other art-related businesses. With a solid online sales structure already in place, influential institutions, namely auction houses, are hosting galleries on their digital marketplaces, demonstrating candor and efficiency; in return, the galleries exclusively entrust works of art and pay a commission to the auction houses. These still-fresh collaborations, or the auction house-gallery hybrid sales model, include Sotheby’s Gallery Network and Christie’s partnership with La Biennale Paris. With a combined total of 73 galleries working with the auction house duopoly, the joint ventures epitomize the art industry’s ability to innovate under pressure. Given their virtual, customizable, and cost-effective functionality, digital art spaces will surely prevail long after the pandemic.

Mildred D. Field