With the toll of the current public health crisis ongoing and looking to drag on for the rest of the year, art fairs such as Frieze New York and Taipei Dangdai are stepping up with online initiatives to ensure the art world stays connected and gets through these difficult times.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
While lockdowns and travel restrictions due to the ongoing global pandemic COVID-19 have brought the art world to a standstill, art fairs continue to rally with improvisational online viewing rooms, programmes featuring live talks on Zoom and more.
The online version of renowned art fair Frieze New York launched on 8 May and will run through 15 May with some 200 galleries from all over the world participating. It’s VIP days on 6 and 7 May reported strong sales; with galleries posting prices along with their works, helping to lower the barrier for prospective clients to enter the market. The platform also offered users the ability to search by price bracket.
The Frieze online viewing room had already been planned long before the pandemic as a complement to the physical fair, giving it a clear advantage. There was also a more improvisational and intimate feel to the Frieze online showcase compared to Art Basel Hong Kong’s initial online viewing room with some photographs of artworks taken in artists’ and gallerists’ homes, next to messy paint splattered floors. Art dealers even posted their cell phone numbers on their gallery website pages.
However, in spite of a positive sales report, most booths only sold one to two works. Fair organisers stated that the online platform was not intended to be a replacement of the physical edition. It evolved into an effort to get through these difficult times together. Nonetheless, Frieze organisers definitely put their money where their mouth is, refunding galleries the full amount of their booth fees for the New York fair and providing access to the viewing room for free.
Closer to home, Taipei Dangdai, the relatively new art fair in Taiwan launched an online initiative known as Taipei Connections this month on 2 May in collaboration with art media Ocula, with a VIP preview on 30 April. The fair already had a physical edition in January this year.
With no intentions to be an online fair, Taipei Connections focused on programming, offering live walkthroughs of exhibitions and online studio visits in Taipei and Hong Kong as well as panels on Zoom featuring high profile speakers such as Belgian art collector Alain Servais and Shelly Wu from Taiwan’s foremost contemporary art gallery TKG+. There was also an online viewing room with works for sale involving galleries which had participated in the January edition.
Fair organisers reportedly put together this online initiative in less than a month in an effort to create a platform that could connect their galleries with audiences. The website received more than 60,000 visits as of 6 May, mostly from Taiwan, with strong interest from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, China, Europe and the United States. Live-streamed events have seen more than 14,600 views so far.
Other online art fairs to check out this month include The Other Art Fair which opened on 6 May with no stated end date announced, and 1-54 Contemporary African Art fair which opens from 4 – 31 May. The Other Art Fair is featuring open studios for Dallas and Chicago exhibitors. Art Paris, originally slated for a physical edition in April, will be running an online platform from 28 to 31 May.
However, the virtual art fair experience does not end in May, with Art Basel launching the second edition of their Online Viewing Rooms beginning with a two-day VIP Preview on 17 and 18 June and running till 26 June for all users. This online showcase is not a replacement for the physical edition of the 2020 fair edition in Basel, Switzerland which has been postponed to September for now.
Featuring all the galleries who are participating in the 2020 fair, the online showcase promises to be a new and improved edition following the first online viewing room launched by Art Basel earlier this year in place of the cancelled Hong Kong edition. There will even be a VIP programme for collectors, galleries, and artists from all over the world.
These online efforts and initiatives indicate that the art fairs are doing what it takes to stay connected with cultural stakeholders, while ensuring the art world remains in touch with one another during these times of crisis and isolation.