While art galleries have been Web-savvy for years, the VIP Art Fair, opening Saturday, represents a digital milestone: the first online-only art fair.
More than 130 international galleries are participating in this event, which was three years in the making. VIP has all the trappings of a traditional fair, except that everything from viewing to potential sales occur in a Second Life-like exhibition hall.
“The concept was [using] the international art fair as a model for a fair that could operate as a limited-time-only live event online,” said Jane Cohen of James Cohen Gallery, one of 12 galleries that founded the fair, which runs through Jan. 30 at vipartfair.com. “Throughout the fair, there are familiar touchstones that anyone who has attended a live fair would recognize.”
All that’s missing is the Champagne reception. You’ll have to provide your own.
How it works
The main map: Navigating the fair is a lot like exploring a video game. You can choose a location from a bird’s-eye-view map of the exhibition halls or you can “walk” from booth to booth by clicking “next” or “previous” within a given booth.
The booths: Each booth (pictured above) has a side-scrolling wall with works hung to give the viewer a relative sense of scale. And the zoom function allows you to enjoy a close-up of a particular work.
“I can get my nose right up to the artwork. [I can even see] the faint sketch lines in pencil that underline the drawing,” Cohen said.
Supplemental materials: Each gallery offers extensive information about its artists, from traditional news releases to videos of the artists talking about their work.
“What we aren’t able to get in terms of seeing a work in person, we’re able to make up for in supplementary materials,” Cohen said.
The business: Browsing is free, but visitors who’ve purchased a VIP pass have access to gallery staff via live chat, where they can initiate a discussion about purchasing a work.
“There’s no ‘buy now’ button,” Cohen said. Instead, every transaction is handled by a real person.
IF YOU ‘GO’
• The VIP Art Fair runs Saturday through Jan. 30 at vipartfair.com.
• Free to browse.
• VIP Pass enables access to pricing information, live chats with gallerists and more. $100, $20 after Jan. 23.