First Online-Only Art Fair Takes Off Amid Optimism

By Anthony Marcusa Comment

The first ever exclusively online art fair is under way. It is one of the last areas of culture to attempt to find cohesiveness and success in the online world, and the latest attempt looks to capitalize on the growing connectivity around the globe.

Viewing In Private is a unique international contemporary art fair in that it only exists online. Running from January 22nd to January 30th, 2011, the inaugural event features artists and galleries from cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Rome, Madrid, London, Shanghai, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Tel Aviv and beyond. In all, the art fair lists 139 galleries from 30 countries.

The goal for exhibitors is simple yet complicated. They hope to sell works to art collectors around the world, but where once potential buyers would view in person, they are now being courted online.

One of the many varied works on display and on sale at the online art fair

There are certainly advantages. Exhibitors have now the tools available to reach people around the world who may otherwise not witness in person and in time the great works of art available. Whereas five to ten years ago people hesitated to input their credit card number, hook up bank accounts, and spend money online, today most users are comfortable buying things from a screen. What’s more, smaller galleries are now afforded the opportunity to showcase work where during a troubled economic times it may be difficult to travel to a big art show.

The site offers viewers as much opportunity to experience a work of art as possible. Galleries offer the finest of details, changing views of three-dimensional work, and videos as well.

Still, hindrances prevail. The art world has been slower than other media to hit the web and there are many who feel that the virtual world is no substitute for experiencing it in person. There is no dramatic unveiling, and no way to feel the buzz of a room of people watching a new piece with intent and intrigue. While the artist can be contacted via email or instant message, one cannot speak to the proud artist standing next to his or her new piece.

Moreover, there is a certain element of elitism when it comes to high-end art that some embrace. The online world is a place where everyone can congregate and exchange ideas, and those with money and particular tastes will not readily dive into an environment where so many others have access.

VIP has looked to ameliorate this discrepancy, by offering two distinct ways to gain access to the fair. Curious art fans and those looking to browse can do so free of charge once they log in. However, more serious prospectors who want a chance to engage artists and communicate directly will have to pay a fee ($20 for the remaining time, $100 for the first two days).

People spending larges sums on money on art viewed exclusively online is not unprecedented, but never before as so much effort and optimism been focused on the endeavor. The VIP Art Fair and similar digital enterprises will look to succeed where other online art attempts failed. Sotheby’s launched an online art auction site in 2000 amid similar anticipation, yet after just a few years it folded and collected it’s loses.

Much has changed since then, with more people being comfortable not only using computers to conduct business, but embracing it. Moreover, there exists a young generation of artists, who like up and coming musicians, will look to the internet to find followers and create a name and brand.

Writers and musicians, producers and poets of varied degrees of professionalism have all embraced the online world to create and distribute content. It is now time that artists attempt to find successes as well.