Art-fair alternative Dream
launched this week, running alongside Art Basel in Hong Kong
, with its first of many promised online editions. Dream is an apt title for the initiative, given that if it’s successful, it will
be a dream for the participating galleries. While the online-only art fair model is nothing new—the most notable example is perhaps the short-lived VIP Art Fair that ran during 2011 and 2012—Dream doesn’t promise a fair-like experience, functionality to buy art online, nor any extensive marketing strategy. Best of all, there is little to no cost for galleries to participate. Organizers prefer to avoid the term “fair” altogether, rather dubbing it a project or a platform. In this edition, Dream comprises a small lineup of excellent young galleries—12 in total, from 12 different cities, all of which have primarily emerging programs. Each exhibitor (Limoncello, Galeria Stereo, Frutta, Sandy Brown, Galerie Gregor Staiger, and Simone Subal Gallery among them) has strong brand recognition and an engaged following. Thus ideally, by pooling their networks through mailing lists and social media channels, they will offer each other the type of promotion (at a small scale) that an art fair allows for, without the overwhelming overhead.
Dream organizers Rebecca May Marston and Barnie Page (director and associate director of London’s Limoncello Gallery, respectively), came up with the core concept on a particularly dismal final day at a fair last year. “It was a totally dead, depressing experience and we were just trying to think of ways that we could reduce our overhead,” Page recently told me over the phone. “Fairs are so expensive and we really wanted to do another fair, which we weren’t able to do for logistical reasons, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we just send a mail out to our clients as if we were doing that fair anyway?’” As the next fair rolled around, they did just that—they sent out a typical email announcement, with a small disclaimer to say they weren’t actually showing in the fair. Not only did the mailing result in replies to wish them good luck and to say “see you at the fair!”—the simple ploy garnered sales. “So we did that for a couple of fairs and then we spoke to some of our colleagues at other galleries,” Page explained. “They were initially maybe slightly outraged, and then they came around and were amazed—maybe by our cheekiness or our ingenuity.”