Since early 2020 contemporary art fairs have been scrambling to keep tabs on Covid, think ahead without panicking, while also understanding that the show must go on. And to some degree, it will, whether Frieze’s online NYC version earlier this year or Art Basel Miami recently canning their in-person festivities in favor of an online production.
The reality is that cases are on the rise again, and it’s going to be a while before congregating with people from all over the world in indoor spaces is going to seem like a good idea.
As someone who has grown to love these events and all their offshoots, I’ve been waiting and watching to see what they would do, especially with Art Basel Miami. It’s wild too, because I was at Art Basel Miami in December 2019 and then Frieze in LA at Paramount Studios in February, right on the cusp of the Covid lockdown. Not a great time to be flying through LAX, but I digress!
Art Basel Hong Kong was the first art fair to halt its in-person events in response to Covid, and since then Fusebox Festival in Austin, TX as well as the Singapore Biennale and Sydney Biennale were all conducted online.
While we know the online versions of these productions will never stack up to standing in front of these pieces in person, the question really has been, will we even enjoy whatever version of this that is facilitated online??
Ahead, we look at some of the ways art fairs have coped with the most 2020 of constraints.
My first taste of this was when I saw Andrew Rafacz Gallery located here in Chicago presenting one of their virtual booth experiences on their Instagram page. The video experience allowed the viewer to basically feel as though they are walking into the booth at the fair, able to see the art from various angles as you smoothly move through the space. And Frieze isn’t the only one, this is becoming par for the course as far as facilitating an online art fair experience that is much more than reading a list of titles with associated prices.
While I speak to how more content gives buyers more insights in the section below, I think this evolution in the art fair experience will last long after Covid. As someone who enjoys the in-person experience at these art fairs, I haven’t found any of these virtual galleries to be so breathtaking that they’d take the place of buying your ticket and showing up to view it from a few feet away. But it’s not supposed to. It’s a great back-up option for the current state of the world, and as I said, additional touchpoints, content, and engagement will be elevated in the decision making process art collectors employ to make their purchases.
Jer Wat (aka Jeremy) is a printmaker, illustrator, and video producer living and working in Winnipeg, Canada. His love of art goes...October 11, 2021
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