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Galleries go online as world of art adjusts

By Bo Leung in London | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-25 11:00
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Metaphor Vision 171002 by Wang Huangsheng. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The fair isn't meant to "replace the sheer pleasure of looking at works of art and being in a gallery and talking to dealer in front of object, but it's something we firmly believe will be a very appealing and innovating way of experiencing what galleries through London, Europe and America have to offer at this time," he said, adding that the camaraderie will be something missing this year.

Paul Gladston, professor of contemporary art at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said, the role of virtual viewing and experience of art has been greatly enhanced and will remain so into the future.

"Rather than being a detached way of showing art, the virtual as a primary mode of artistic expression will develop further," Gladston said.

"This means that the virtual will become more an embodied site of aesthetic experience instead of being a secondary means of representation. We have already been traveling in that direction. The COVID-19 pandemic will almost certainly accelerate things. Conventional online representation will respond by also becoming more sophisticated; for example, like the online presence of the Shibunkaku Gallery in Kyoto."

While some younger people who grew up with the internet may be more comfortable to spend a lot online for things they have never seen in person, galleries say the idea of entirely replacing physical events and galleries with online ones won't be a threat to the more traditional model of business.

Hui of 3812 Gallery said combining the physical and virtual will bring something interesting to the art market, but physical contact is irreplaceable and there is still room for the traditional.

"This is a unique industry," he said. "Art appreciation, purchasing art and other traditional elements such as face-to-face contact is still the most important factor for us to develop the art market."

Hui added: "I also remind my team that we should remember to share our values. So, no matter how you want to be innovative, how you want to be different when you present yourself online, don't forget who you are and your core values, your vision and mission."

Osborne said: "One of the reason people buy art and other luxury goods is because of the interaction and added value and the relationship with the seller that exists when you come into an art gallery, fair, or showroom."

He believes people will reengage physically with works of art which can't be totally replaced by an online experience.

"There are those who like attending art fairs and connecting with the art works," Osborne said. "It's not just the value but the added value and this is important business."

With lockdown gradually easing in the UK, galleries are slowly opening their doors.

However, appointment only visits and social distancing will remain for now, a new normal which the industry will have to adjust to.

"We're excited to try new ways of reaching out to our clients and showing a range of what's to offer, but it's no substitute for standing in front of a client," Ongpin said noting that the experience of the pandemic has "changed the art world in a way".

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