Monday, January 31, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the VIP Art Fair

Well, we've packed up our virtual booth, returned to check out of our virtual hotel, caught a virtual flight home, and crossed our fingers that our virtual shipment arrives back at the gallery on a day when the snow isn't piled 5 feet deep in front of our door. In other words, the fair is over and our gallery team is returning to running just one operation at a time, rather than two, and yet I'm not as physically exhausted as usual at this point.

The initial response to VIP was less flattering than we had hoped for. The overwhelming numbers of people who visited the site on the first day and tried to use the Chat functionality, well, overwhelmed the system and made it painfully slow to navigate around it, eventually bringing it down completely at one point. This understandably frustrated a lot of people who either assumed it was a problem on their end or who (knowing it wasn't on their end) had been truly looking forward to experiencing the fair. It frustrated we galleries a bit too, as we were online waiting to receive inquiries about the work in our booths.

Once the site had been stabilized though, the feedback became a lot more like what we had hoped for. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, of course (what in the art world ever is?), but eventually it grew to become what I would declare a successful venture for us. Not only did we sell work to new clients (your ultimate goal in any fair), but we connected the dots on long-standing clients who didn't know about certain works by other artists we work with.

I took a straw poll among other dealers who participated this year, and the vast majority I spoke to agree with me that it's definitely worth doing again next year....that it seems destined to become a strong supplemental part of our overall outreach efforts. No one expects it to replace real-world art fairs, but in January, when most of the Northern hemisphere is risking serious travel delays due to weather, it brought us a very nice influx of new business and potential for more.

Just like it was for us when we started doing art fairs in real-life, there is of course a learning curve and a bit of trial and error, not only in logistics, but in what artwork to present in which contexts. I'd say that London's Limoncello gallery wins the prize for smartest presentation concept at VIP (they presented Polaroid shots of the work in their booth, forcing you to zoom in to see it...maximizing the interactivity of the site). I expect we'll see other web-savvy booth concepts next year.

If you ventured onto VIP, let me know what you thought. Anonymous comments with foul-language or what strikes me as gratuitous grumbling (yes, I'll be the judge of that) will not be posted, though, so at least try to be constructive if you have criticisms.

Labels:

8 Comments:

Blogger JMF said...

I visited the site on Wednesday and suffered no breakdowns or significant down times. I liked the format. I am an artist (Sub Emerging or unhatched-not sure what the proper nomenclature is) and was not looking to buy, so I did not extend myself to VIP status. I must respectfully disagree about Lemoncello’s choice for representation though. I zoomed on one, maybe two of them, then moved on the next gallery altogether. I didn’t love what I saw, and I try not to dwell on the stuff I merely like; I assumed the rest were by the same artist and moved on. Perhaps I was just fatigued, but I did not notice that they may have had different artist’s names below and I did not put two and two together when I noticed that there were focus galleries later on my tour. I loved the scale feature though, especially that the silhouette seemed to be an extremely intellectually curious skate punk.

1/31/2011 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger ruben said...

I know everybody blasted the VIP Art Fair but, must say it has great potential . Being the very first time , like everything else mistakes, bugs and errors are due to happen...so what?

I enjoyed surfing from the comfort of my home without having to worry of what to wear , running late etc, etc.

Also , I thought some of the galleries did a beautiful job curating their on line booths. It almost felt like being there live. Looking forward the next one.

1/31/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Patoge said...

I tried it out on the first and second day of the fair and it seemed to be getting progressively slower each day. At times just getting stuck completely. I'm a bit surprised that there were so many technical problems and I must admit I am not completely buying the excuse that the system was overwhelmed by the number of users (how many users was it exactly?) but I could be wrong. I just thought that surely the developers would have tested the site throughly in advance but I guess the real world and real visitors is truly the only testing ground that matters.

I've read a lot of the criticism of the venture and the experience over the past few days but overall I actually liked the simplicity of the site, no fancy attempts at a virtual 3D world experience, the focus was on the artwork and the presentation, by in large, had some class to it. It is good to hear that art was actually sold on the site.

So as a first attempt this was pretty good. It will be great to see how this develops, it would be lovely to see this type of thing done in conjunction with a real world fair, so if you can't get to Switzerland this year visit online or else to see a curated exhibition within the fair which brings artists to this platform which are not necessarily with the participating galleries.

1/31/2011 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Jedd Haas said...

I visited several times; each time, the site was slow and not very responsive. I found the interface tedious, with far too much clicking required to see a piece at high resolution. The non-standard interface also struck me as an unforced error. Rather than trying to re-create the exact experience of an art fair on the site, they could have used the opportunity to come up with something more innovative. Unfortunately, whoever designed the site seemed to be so enamored of their "clever" concept that they ignored basic usability concerns.

At the core, it was an interesting idea, and one hopes they learn from their mistakes and do better next time.

1/31/2011 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous rory said...

When it worked it worked well. When it was loading at a glacial pace it was time for more coffee and chasing the cat until it did.

It was nice to booth hop without having knock anyway over and sort your way through what I thought might be interesting but that leads to what did I miss? The whole concept holds promise.

1/31/2011 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

competition next year when this spawns the monetized versions with ads?


www.googleartproject.com


The galleries advantage likely remains what it always was - human relations...
so what happens when Google or some other upstart gets digital voice interaction (vs voice recognition)?

i tried to get into VIP, but couldn't so gave up. Digital is often hyper convenient and when it isn't it slips away.

2/01/2011 07:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ViP was a positive, interesting and yes... intriguing experience. Even if there is a lot to fine tune and adjust ViP opened a threshold of future on-line opportunities for galleries and real world fair organisers.

I was surprised when reading the load of negative comments and criticisms on Twitter, ArtReview etc... A typical reaction for US visitors dealing with "patience"? I had no trouble visiting the fair at all from day one. I never got stuck or suffered from down times or responsiveness (except zoom function) maybe thanks to time delay with Europe. Sure there were a few bugs, but nothing serious. They are part of the learning curve for all parties involved.

@Patoge I am curious to see what real world fair organisers will pick up from this first time experience. On-line preview for VIP ticket holders?

@JMF I can't but agree on your point about the Limoncello's approach. Discovering the Limoncello's booth during a first general tour my reaction was "Hey!? A Robert Devriendt clone!?" Second instance : "Are polaroids back !??" It took a while to understand that to discover the real work you had to click on the tiles at the bottom. With the zoom feature reacting sometimes weird, opting for gimmicks like these is putting extra hurdles related to accessibility. And with 130+ galleries to visit I can imagine a lot of people never went that far on Limoncello's booth.

More learnings?

• Prices. A lot of excellent works under the $5,000 mark. But also the persistent reticence of galleries to come up with exact prices once outside the gallery's space.
Maybe from now on some of the ViP participants will dare to publish prices on their sites (even if it's only a price range for a start) braving the risk to be categorized as "too commercial an approach" by colleagues.

• Artists. Discovered great works and artists although they are represented on the regular gallery's sites too. Maybe gallery sites should open with a rotating selection of works available instead of copying the real world situation by opening with the current exhibition.

• As a consequence thanks to ViP a much clearer idea of the program the different galleries stand for, how they share information about their artists and themselves.

• Being able to look up, read, list, favor and compare in detail at my own pace away from the frenzy and noise of an art fair. I can do exactly the same when visiting gallery sites, and yet I don't. A real eye-opener and something to sort out for myself.

Moreover, being able to compare on-line "fairing" with real world situation, I am surprised by the amount of energy (and by consequence focus) drained during real world fairs.
I guess it's a feeling a lot of gallery owners will have too.

• Really impressed by the number of staff galleries had available and, once the chat function went down, by the fully detailed contact information (mobiles + skype accounts + personal email addresses) something most galleries rarely publish on their sites.

• Follow-up by galleries could be better. So far (maybe to soon after Jan. 30th.) only 5 galleries sent a follow-up message.

• Surprised that after 6 PM EST on launching day a lot of NY galleries had no one on-line any more.

• Why I can't consult my list of favorites anymore since ViP closed?

• Etc.

2/01/2011 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Luuk Christiaens said...

Something went wrong with name/URL ... sorry

ViP was a positive, interesting and yes... intriguing experience. Even if there is a lot to fine tune and adjust ViP opened a threshold of future on-line opportunities for galleries and real world fair organisers.

I was surprised when reading the load of negative comments and criticisms on Twitter, ArtReview etc... A typical reaction for US visitors dealing with "patience"? I had no trouble visiting the fair at all from day one. I never got stuck or suffered from down times or responsiveness (except zoom function) maybe thanks to time delay with Europe. Sure there were a few bugs, but nothing serious. They are part of the learning curve for all parties involved.

@Patoge I am curious to see what real world fair organisers will pick up from this first time experience. On-line preview for VIP ticket holders?

@JMF I can't but agree on your point about the Limoncello's approach. Discovering the Limoncello's booth during a first general tour my reaction was "Hey!? A Robert Devriendt clone!?" Second instance : "Are polaroids back !??" It took a while to understand that to discover the real work you had to click on the tiles at the bottom. With the zoom feature reacting sometimes weird, opting for gimmicks like these is putting extra hurdles related to accessibility. And with 130+ galleries to visit I can imagine a lot of people never went that far on Limoncello's booth.

More learnings?

• Prices. A lot of excellent works under the $5,000 mark. But also the persistent reticence of galleries to come up with exact prices once outside the gallery's space.
Maybe from now on some of the ViP participants will dare to publish prices on their sites (even if it's only a price range for a start) braving the risk to be categorized as "too commercial an approach" by colleagues.

• Artists. Discovered great works and artists although they are represented on the regular gallery's sites too. Maybe gallery sites should open with a rotating selection of works available instead of copying the real world situation by opening with the current exhibition.
• As a consequence thanks to ViP a much clearer idea of the program the different galleries stand for, how they share information about their artists and themselves.

• Being able to look up, read, list, favor and compare in detail at my own pace away from the frenzy and noise of an art fair. I can do exactly the same when visiting gallery sites, and yet I don't. A real eye-opener and something to sort out for myself.

Moreover, being able to compare on-line "fairing" with real world situation, I am surprised by the amount of energy (and by consequence focus) drained during real world fairs.
I guess it's a feeling a lot of gallery owners will have too.
• Really impressed by the number of staff galleries had available and, once the chat function went down, by the fully detailed contact information (mobiles + skype accounts + personal email addresses) something most galleries rarely publish on their sites.

• Follow-up by galleries could be better. So far (maybe to soon after Jan. 30th.) only 5 galleries sent a follow-up message.
• Surprised that after 6 PM EST on launching day a lot of NY galleries had no one on-line any more.
• Why I can't consult my list of favorites anymore since ViP closed?
• Etc.

2/01/2011 10:36:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home