Every ART click is a discovery
Baseera Khan, My Family’s Headwraps, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, NYC.
Year after year, art collectors from all over the world have made the early-summer pilgrimage to Switzerland to attend Art Basel, with some 93,000 visitors attending in June 2019. This year, as many of us are still staying at home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, and while art fairs and galleries take much of their operations to the web, many collectors are still supporting their favorite galleries and fairs by buying art via online channels. To buy art then become ‘Collecting is connecting.’
But what are the challenges posed by this new reality? How can collectors best use these new ways of working that their preferred art dealers and artists are exploring? Are there pitfalls that collectors can avoid?
“If you think about it, a few months ago, this industry was primarily working using email and PDFs, but there has now been an enormous digital renaissance. If the result is that people are able to connect globally in a new way, it will mean a very positive outcome from a very negative thing”.
Says Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel
While new collectors might want to start small, it’s worth noting that others have already jumped into deeper waters online. Even within the first half-hour of Art Basel Hong Kong, the fair’s first all-online edition, Gagosian gallery had sold a Mary Weatherford work, one of her trademark paintings with neon lights attached, for $750,000.
Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), 2013–19. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner.
The other recent case is David Zwirner’s online digital showroom. Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red) (2013–19), Jeff Koons sculpture has sold for $8 million with the online Koons showroom in “Basel Online: 15 Rooms,”, part of Koons’s “Celebration” series, marks the highest sale price for any single artwork sold online by the gallery. And if you are interested in Jeff Koons’s artwork, try visit the website www.jwdart-space.com from the only representative of ‘Porcelain Limited Edition’ by Jeff Koons in Thailand.
In some ways, now is a better time to buy online than ever, due to increased transparency in pricing. More and more fairs and galleries are making prices (or price ranges) visible to all; every artwork at Art Basel Hong Kong was tagged with how much it cost, and this will also be the case with the Online Viewing Rooms, which are going live later this month. The good news for the collector who might be wary of buying online is that galleries are getting creative and beefing up the experience they can offer, literally coming to collectors in their homes, allowing potential buyers to have the same kind of informative experience that they would normally get through in-person conversations with art dealers – and more. ‘Galleries’ efforts to educate collectors have been phenomenal,’ says the New York-based art advisor Kim Heirston, who has worked for two decades with collectors, corporations, and foundations to develop their collections of contemporary.
Jorge Pardo, Untitled (detail), 2002, presented in the Unlimited sector at Art Basel in Basel 2019 by neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
“It doesn’t hurt, to have friends who are willing to offer guidance. ‘When I first started to collect, I asked Michael Ovitz for some advice. He doesn’t do anything halfway, and he was kind enough to send me a Dropbox of artists I should know, as well as websites and books to read. I picked out the artists I liked and then signed up for alerts on Paddle8 and Artsy when their works came up in charity auctions, so I could start to build a collection at entry-level prices.”
Troy Carter describes, he is the collector and founder of Atom Factory, an entertainment-management company that represented musicians and performing artists such as Lady Gaga and John Legend, as well as the co-founder of the music and technology company Q&A. He collects artists Mark Bradford, Rashid Johnson, and Julie Mehretu.
“There is much that visiting galleries and fairs online can’t match the in-person experience, because visitors miss the social aspect of being at the fair and seeing your friends, or the information that the gallery provides someone when they’re looking at work in person. On the other hand, online art fairs democratize the process, since every exhibitor is given the same weight on the screen. And when you visit a fair in person, Ariel highlights, you prioritize the booths of galleries that you already have a relationship with and may not visit all those exhibiting. Art fairs remaining open online for a longer time than they would if they were held in the real world. Certainly, I miss discovering things by happenstance, but then again, ‘every click is a discovery.’
Says Ariel Bentata, an art lovers from Florida
Buying artworks without seeing them in person is not an entirely new phenomenon – dealers have offered artworks to collectors via JPEG and PDF for some years. In 2013, New York’s Winkleman Gallery even organized an exhibition titled ‘Send Me the JPEG’. But she also acknowledges that a buyer is taking a chance by purchasing artworks sight unseen, with color being a particular sticking point. She once had a collector commission a wood-and-mirror installation by Jorge Pardo that she had found at an art fair that the buyer couldn’t attend, only for them to find that the colors weren’t quite what they had expected when the piece was first installed in their home. Also, there’s the case of a Mastercard embedded within a Damien Hirst painting that made it out of bounds for a particular buyer.
High-resolution images can save buyers from unpleasant surprises, including where there is very subtle imagery within an artwork. So, sometimes, the same advice applies when buying from a JPEG as when buying in person. ‘Really look,’ says Kim. ‘Look very carefully.’
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