Shane Ferro
Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

MARKET WATCH: Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

VIP “Discussions” Create an Intimate Experience for Viewers — But Will They Convince Buyers?

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One of the coolest things about the VIP Art Fair website — which opens to the public Friday (check out ARTINFO’s preview here) — is the “Discussions” section. There are a series of videos where art world professionals talk about their galleries, advisory businesses, and in one case, a personal collection. A lot of it is marketing for galleries with booths on the site, which I would normally pass up in favor of direct contact with dealers in the vernissage. But video is inherently more inviting than chat, and these kept me watching. However, I am interested to see how the visually great stuff going on at VIP will translate to sales.

Within the “Discussions” section there is an 11+ minute interview with Pam and Dick Kramlich, a San Francisco couple with a stellar multimedia art collection. They take the viewer through their home, pointing out various pieces they have picked up over the years. Not being a collector of video art myself, I have often wondered how one tastefully displays video art at home. Let’s just say it takes a lot of dedicated flatscreen TV’s, but it can be done. Watching the couple sit together on the couch in their prim and proper living room while describing their affinity for Ryan Trecartin videos made my day.

Michael Plummer of Artvest talks about art investment, making a couple of notable points that don’t involve the phrases “art finance” or “Chinese artists,” which is refreshing for someone talking about the art market these days. He likes Korean and Brazilian artists, and is betting that the world will be hearing more from them in the next 5-10 years. He also touched on the subject of art and technology, as was thematically appropriate, and pinpointed the rise of the iPad. The not-even-two-years-old device is a must for galleries these days, now that they have discovered it is the perfect medium for showing “back of the room” inventory while standing on the floor at an art fair with limited wall space.

On Rhizome‘s video, Internet artist Raphaël Rozendaal takes the viewer on a tour of his interactive art, which I may never have found looking around by myself (the Rhizome booth only has screenshots, but if you click “Artwork Info” you can find the link to the work). I was mesmerized by the maze of color blocks that make up Towards and Beyond .com, which is available (in an edition of one) for $6,500. As his video is wrapping up he breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, noting, “This is one of the weirdest things I have ever done, talking on my laptop without anyone listening.” Raphaël — I’m listening.

Making my way through the discussions today, I was reminded in a way of the newly launched online university Udacity. A former Stanford professor, Sebastian Thrun, launched it recently after posting one of his Stanford courses on the Internet. Not only did thousands of people around the globe complete the course, but 170 of 200 students dropped out of his physical class to take it online after finding the experience was more intimate. They also had the ability to pause, rewind, and repeat until they understood something. That sort of personal, individually paced experience is exactly what VIP is after — the online platform can reach more people and yet provide a cozier experience than any physical art fair could hope to do.

Yet, the drawback to the fair is a lack of what Plummer calls the “social energy” of viewing art in physical space. Will collectors miss it?

As a journalist (and a generally curious and interested person) I’m excited that I have the opportunity to watch Leo Koenig talk to me one-on-one (it’s like we are sitting on the couch together!) about his stable of artists — something he wouldn’t have time to do at any other kind of fair — but would the collector say the same? For buyers I wonder how much the social experience — particularly the champagne and super-charm of a dealer smelling interest — adds to the fair and their predilection to buy.  It’s difficult to be charming via chat.

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