Last weeks VIP Art Fair, online

Data Not sure how many of you caught the VIP art fair that was the first large scale online art fair but I did.  Put together by James and Jane Cohan who themselves own a gallery. The recent article in Bloomberg news did not surprise me because I was wary to begin with. 

These days it seems that high end art is one of the last frontiers that has yet to figure out an online presence.  The online opportunities in the art world for galleries that are selling work in the tens, hundreds and millions of dollar range is of interest particularly to collectors that might not have easy access to galleries. 

When the VIP fair launched a few Saturdays ago at 10am, I got on.  The site was in and out and I eventually perused through each and every gallery over the course of the day.  The site was not exactly user friendly.  One of the major points of being online and looking at art is that you don't have to talk to anyone.  You can look around at your own leisure.  The site that was created forced the potential customer or anyone who was just curious to engage with the gallery if you had any questions on the artist or price of the piece you were looking at.  In essence creating the same type of exclusivity that people feel walking into a gallery or walking an art fair.  There is generally not an air of community in art galleries.  People who are working there definitely don't do the meet and greet with an open smile on their face. The beauty of being on line is anyone can feel comfortable strolling through the galleries and learning.  By doing that, the art world could put their guard down a little and perhaps build a larger community of collectors as people find an interest in art and find that they have a desire to really collect large expensive pieces of well known artists over time.

Each gallery, on the site put up work from a variety of artists that they represented.  Each artist was given a small bio and a price range of their work.  I had no idea what the price was of the particular piece I was looking at.  A price range of $50 – $150K is quite large.  I had no interest in clicking on the link to have a conversation with one of the people at the gallery.  I wanted to find a few pieces that I might have liked and know exactly what they cost.  I could have put them in some type of folder to go back to later and see what I liked, what each piece cost, and learn about each artist and what gallery represents them.  It would have been great to have more information on the artist which is easily linked to online.  Saving this information for later and maybe going directly to each galleries website or stopping by on a trip to Chelsea or whever they are located.  Most people don't take a stroll through a gallery and just decide to plop down $150K even if they are a big collector.  Galleries know that. 

I do like the idea of the VIP fair but not how it was executed.  The culmination of a variety of top galleries from around the world under one roof is intriguing when you don't have to fly to Basel to see them.  It is an opportunity for each of those galleries to brand themselves and show a collector the type of artists they represent.  Maybe each gallery should be able to build their own exclusive space.  Just a thought. 

I am still incredibly wary of the online art purchases past a certain dollar amount.  I know I have done a huge shout out to Jen Bekman of 20 x 200 before but I truly believe that her model is the right model for the online world.  Exclusive pieces done in a small run creating a handful of editions  by top artists that range from $20 – $2000.  Letting everyone collect and enjoy art.  As people get older with more income they might find themselves yearning to buy exlusive pieces at high end galleries or even begin with emerging artists where their pieces are less money but my gut is those pieces will be bought face to face. 

I might be old school here but it is just a big leap of faith to hit "send" when your credit card is about to be pinged for let's say $10K and you haven't even seen the piece in person.  After all, I am not so sure galleries are hip on the return after 10 day policy and we will give you your money back. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Mgoodin

    Hi Joanne, I was wondering about the fair but missed it. Thanks for the insight. Too bad, seems like an opportunity missed. I was hoping for the best. Maybe it should be a juried fair but artist driven instead of gallery?Best,Michael

    1. Gotham Gal

      artist driven is tough. they are artists, enough said.

  2. ellen

    I feel the same way about expensive jewelry online. I just have to see it in person. Impossible to tell flaws of a stone from a picture, but people do it all the time. Under a certain dollar amount you don’t worry so much.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Exactly and of course everyone has a different dollar amount

  3. atryon

    Thanks for your thoughts, Joanne. I too was disappointed in what felt like clunky technology in many cases – especially for a site that had a few years of planning behind it. At the same time, I hope that this fair, and the sales success they seem to have seen, is a step in the right direction towards bringing more art online. I agree that 6+ figures for online art purchases will remain rare, but am looking forward to more 3-4 digit sales in the near future.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i am pretty sure they did not see any successes in terms of art sales.

  4. Tereza

    I’m a little out of the loop on the art world but have followed it from afar since the early 80s because my uncle is a painter. he’s in the healthy 5 figure range; my mom used to treck to thru the E. Village for his openings, when it was a seriously scary place.he always worked with great gallerists, and it’s such a personal process. not just that a buyer (understandably) wants to see the art, but as i’ve observed it the gallerists will also loan it out to sit in a collector’s house while they decide whether or not to buy. (he had situations where a painting was unable to show to a buyer because it was in the home of another collector being decided upon)and if you’re a collector and you’re buying work from an artist who’s alive (as opposed to dead) the great pleasure is the chance to meet the artist, create a relationship that’s more personal. not sure quite how to foster that special relationship over IM, but my spidey sense tells me not disclosing a piece’s price is probably not additive to any kind of collector/artist relationship.but, hey, what do i know. 🙂

  5. rebeccastees

    Remote purchasing works for auctions……..usually the big items are already sort-of pre-sold to collectors at fairs, don’t you think?Both are the thrill of the big chase — auctions are highest bidder and fairs are best collector…….each has a unique social vibe.The social aspect of competition …………I love this line from Sarah Thorton…..”dealers say their real business is “to sell symptoms articulated as objects”

    1. Gotham Gal


  6. akickupthearts

    Do we need a ‘fair’ to see gallery’s work online? Surely they all have their own websites and most are pretty good. Want to ‘chat’ with a dealer? Then pick up a phone – if you are spendig a few $K (or £K or YK) then what does the cost of a call matter. Want to get in the line for an artists work? Then register your interest anytime and (if you are lucky) get in early – fair or no fair.The dealers may benefit by expanding their databases, but for collectors I cant see the point. It is a gimmick.

    1. Gotham Gal

      but many people do not know which galleries to contact or which galleriesmight represent artists that appeal to their senses. putting a variety ofgalleries under one roof for collectors to walk through will perhaps createnew connections for everyone involved.

    1. Gotham Gal

      yep. i have actually been in touch with the man behind the site.

  7. joyce

    hi my name is joyce, just came across this blog and found out this sharing is quite interesting. I am wondering which type of “product” is suitable to sell online, many galleries mentioned they can display lart installation or sculptures via internet. Then would it be much convenient if they sell new media art works on it or on the contrary it will easily to make a copy from it…

    1. Gotham Gal

      art is intellectual property but at the end of the day if it is copied, itisn’t the original work.