I have been thinking a lot about the VIP art fair. In an article in the WSJ today there was an article about “art darling” (ugh) Terence Koh using Skype to paint portraits. First of all, can we stop talking about Terence Koh? But more importantly, there is an interesting quote about the future of the art industry in relation to developing technologies:
“The art world is branching out online. Later this month, the first ever VIP Art Fair, an entirely virtual event, will present work for sale from blue-chip galleries around the world. This spring marks the launch of Art.sy, a new site that will attempt to pair collectors with art based on their personal preferences, similar to the way Pandora matches listeners with music.”
I’m not one who gets frightened by technology - I’m always super eager to learn more about innovations in regard to audio guides, smartphone and iPad apps, museum Youtube stations, etc. But Art.sy just seems too simple, like the creators haven’t thought through all the implications of the development. I guess one can look to Pandora and its effect on the music industry, in which case the technology didn’t have as much of an effect on the music industry as some predicted (…or not yet at least). Some people who hate the idea even get into it when they try it. I can’t remember what it’s from (a movie? a book? in relation to the atomic bomb?) that just because we have the technology to create something doesn’t mean that we should.
In the immediate future, nothing major will come of this. A few hip collectors will try it out. But if it gains popularity, we run the risk of eradicating not only gallery salespeople, but also collection advisors. These people will become glorified technical assistants before being dissolved altogether. No big loss - it’s a bougie job anyway, right?
But I find it hard to get excited about a world in which buying art online is the norm. here have already been some models for selling art online - one notable example being 20x200. They offer a great model, and I really believe in their organization. While I rarely shop online, I have bought prints from them before. But there is just something about seeing (and buying) a work of art in real life that can’t be digitally replicated!
In a recent conversation with my friend Nina, she reminded me that good gallerists don’t simply match collectors with what they “want” - they strategize on their behalf, thinking through the artists’ career, following the ups and downs of the markets, and making educated selections for them. “It’s not as simple as Match.com (which we all now doesn’t really work…)” she said, “Hopefully it will represent just another way of doing it - an addition to what’s already there.” I couldn’t agree more.