Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Follow the Money

If you'll permit me to introduce this post with a reference from my book (which is doing alright these days, I'm happy to report). In the chapter on choosing and building out a location for your new gallery, I begin by noting how many collectors, who are high-powered executives or captains of industry, tell me that for them collecting is a way to relax and have fun. That being the case, it's not necessarily the best move to open a gallery in a location that's a royal pain to get to. The best collectors enjoy a bit of an adventure in gallery hopping or visiting studios, but if you're really hoping to attract as many as possible, you have to take their convenience into consideration.

Taking collectors' convenience into consideration is why galleries with global ambitions are opening up shop, as Willie Sutton might put it, "where the money is." Of course, as a Western gallery, you'll have to stand in line to branch out in Beijing or Shanghai these days, but a few stories in the art press of late suggest the wisdom of following the money is leading galleries to open up in places they wouldn't have given much thought to just a few years back.

Uber-dealer Larry Gagosian is now, as was widely reported, opening up his 9th location in the 8th arrondissement, with Bloomberg news noting:
The presence of billionaire French collectors such as Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault is boosting Paris’s rivalry with London as the capital of Europe’s post-recessionary art market.
Indeed everything contemporary art related in Paris seems to be red hot again, as evidenced most perhaps by how FIAC has one of its strongest lists in ages.

Another city that has seen an impressive rise in its contemporary art market street cred of late is Istanbul. As Andrew Russeth notes in an artinfo.com article on the pending move into the Turkish art market by New York's Lehmann Maupin gallery:
Istanbul seems to be the latest city gaining a more prominent place on the contemporary-art map, helped along by a longstanding biennial, which won rave reviews last year, and a burgeoning collector base.
And it's not only galleries who understand that it's easier to bring the mountain to Mohamed. In the past few years art fairs have increasingly popped up where the NetJets set vacations, including Aspen, the Hamptons, and Dubai. Of course that was the whole genius behind Sam Keller's opening up the second Basel fair in Miami.

The latest and perhaps most ambitious thinking in making it easy to purchase art, however, may be the entirely online VIP Art Fair which will debut this coming January, bringing the art to the collector wherever the collector may be:
The revolutionary design of VIP Art Fair allows art collectors the opportunity to view artwork online as never before. VIP Art Fair’s innovative technology presents artworks in relation to other works of art and in relative scale to the human figure. Inquisitive visitors can zoom in to examine details of a painting’s surface, get multiple views of a three-dimensional work, and watch videos of a multimedia piece. Galleries will provide comprehensive details on artworks and artists, including biographies, catalogue essays, artist films and interviews, and in-depth information that will empower collectors.
Unlike other art fairs where securing the earliest access to the offerings can mean pulling strings to ensure you get a card for the most exclusive preview time slots, anyone anywhere around the globe can browse the VIP Art Fair right out the gate, so long as you're willing to operate on New York time. The Fair opens to the online public Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. EST.

I've heard all the skepticism about this online approach (no real face-time with the work or the dealer, certain types of work just don't work in digital format, etc.) but knowing the team behind this effort (and how brilliant and knowledgeable they are), I have to say I wouldn't underestimate how important this may turn out to be. The costs of shipping, hotels, flights, and the build-out of the booths themselves make art fairs a huge funds-suck for galleries. Any of those real-world costs you can eliminate are worth investigating. This could easily be the beginning of a real revolution in the selling of art. Of course, many of the galleries participating in VIP are also, at the same time, expanding their global networks of brick-and-mortar spaces, so it may end up being just one of a number of approaches art dealers end up balancing. Stay tuned.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Gam said...

(i hate posting first)

Hey Ed,

Do you know if you can upload a picture of your living room say, use that as a background and have the scaled image of the artwork shown in your own living room setting instead of on a colored or white backdrop? (i guess that is more a decorative aspect then an art experience)

Maybe the further these "netfairs" progress, the more the opposite opportunity might occur, the possibility of bringing the artwork directly into the collectors homes for unique "previewing" - almost a subscription based service to experience the artwork prior to a vernissage. But I am curious Ed, do you find the collectors enjoy the adventure as a social aspect too? I mean is it the getting out and bumping shoulders with other collectors part of the appeal or are they mostly lone hunters trying to get to the exotic locales before the crowds arrive?

Maybe that could be intriguing, private vernissages in the collectors actual home where they invite their own dinner guests or are simply the hosts...

9/15/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I have had a chance to talk at length with the organizers of this netfair (nice term), Gam, and they say they're intentionally targeting those collectors who don't enjoy the fair or even gallery environments so much, making the assumption that this will be just one marketing approach in a dealer's arsenal even more likely.

Taking work to the collector's home is viable only within a certain geographical area or price point range.

9/15/2010 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The netfair is pretty exclusive in terms of exhibitors, invite only I understand?

Is there scope for an online Liste/Volta/Zoo/Pulse etc equivalent, for the smaller players, in anyone's opinion?

9/15/2010 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Bradley Hankey said...

While this "netfair" approach may seem horrifying to artists, who generally believe (and rightly so) that their work is viewed in its best light in person, I wouldn't underestimate the power of this model either. As we spend more time online, and buy more products without "seeing" them first, this really seems like more of a natural evolution of the art market. It does seem efficient and cost-effective, and I can see the real benefits for artists as well as collectors, as the web really does open your work to a larger audience. Unlike an artist's website or other online forum, this netfair model would still provide an element of exclusivity that collectors and gallery artists have come to appreciate.

9/15/2010 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

I wonder if they'll have a geomap indicating from where all the participants are logging in from during the fair.

Their site works good on an IPAD emulator: http://ipadpeek.com/ add their address

They're keeping an auction house time urgency which is interesting. (Buy now or its too late!) I wonder if they'll indicate somehow the "crowd interest" around an given artwork -and so heighten that urgency

9/15/2010 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Having worked for an art site since 2006 I find it interesting that when a site like Myartspace.com enters the fold people in the know of the art world will often bash efforts.

I've seen it all-- statements like "It is not good for art" or "Artists involved with art sites will not be taken serious"-- but then VIPartfair comes around and all of the sudden selling art online is "brilliant" or a "revolution" of the art market.It amazes me how some individuals change their minds so quickly about utilizing the internet for selling art.

I'm not taking jabs at you Ed-- but I have seen alot of people who have been very vocal against the concept of selling art online. Some of those same people are praising VIPartfair now.

I think much of it has to do with people lumping art sites together instead of looking at the details. Take Myartspace for example-- the site has been an exhibitor at three art fairs and will be exhibiting with SCOPE for the first time in December. The details are everything.

I find VIPartfair to be very exciting because I think it will help-- if it is successful-- to give a boost in credibility as far as selling art online goes. Perhaps then individuals who are inclined to scoff at sites like Myartspace will be more apt to do a little research.

Also, are you sure it is open to everyone? Because I thought only select collectors will have access to it.

9/18/2010 09:47:00 PM  

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