Verdict still out on virtual VIP Art Fair success

  • January 25, 2011 12:30

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Screenshot of the VIP Art Fair website.

The launch last weekend of the new VIP Art Fair, a week-long and online-only event, drew visitors from 130 countries who viewed artwork on the website more than 3.3 million times. That amount of traffic also slowed the site, frustrating some users, and causing techinical difficulties which commentators on Artinfo dubbed a "VIP fiasco."

Organizer Jane Cohan told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that the "Viewing in Private" fair is now running at "100 percent speed" and that a dozen exhibitors have already reported sales.

The show runs through Jan. 30 and features top international galleries, mostly dealing in blue-chip contemporary art, as well as a section for emerging galleries.

Browsing the fair is free of charge. While the "wow" factor of facing an artwork in the flesh for the first time is missing, there is an efficiency gained by the ability to view, zoom in and scroll through 1,018 artworks by 917 artists from 140 top-tier galleries worldwide.

Users can upgrade for a fee to find out prices and more information, but, unfortunately, the live chat with dealers function has been disabled as of Jan. 25, presumably because of technical difficulties.

Valerie Cassel Oliver, a senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, provides a tour for online attendees of the fair. She told CultureMap Houston that she thinks the online format would work well for specialty shows such as print or antiquarian book fairs. "I think it's a successful exercise to see if the art fair can be translated," Oliver said. "It's an interesting template."

One participant, New York's Gagosian Gallery, reported a few sales and gave a positive outlook for the event.

Another exhibitor, Anna Schwartz, who is based in Australia, said she has so far sold a painting by Jan Nelson for $27,000, which more than covers her $20,000 virtual booth cost. She has no idea where the online buyer is located, Schwartz told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

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