“The gallery’s in-house research and content department has always produced further reading material focused on our artists, major works, and exhibitions,” the trio said via email. “Viewing rooms offer potential clients a more immersive and multimedia experience, so this is a consequential next step.” Thus far, viewing room shows have been hosted in parallel with fairs (including Frieze and West Bund Art & Design), as well as concurrent exhibitions at the Berlin space. The current viewing room allows visitors to inquire about a room-filling, spider-inspired work by
By 2019, we’re well beyond the hoary question of whether collectors are willing to purchase works they’ve only seen online. (Spoiler alert: They are!) The most exciting developments in the online viewing room space will doubtlessly come from galleries with the energy and resources to experiment with the form, innovating platforms that specifically take advantage of what a virtual exhibition can be.
During this year’s Art Basel in Miami Beach, David Zwirner showcased works online that operate “at unexpected and vastly different scales,” Soboleva said. That might mean a massive
photograph paired with a modest
canvas—the sort of quirky curation that, in a gallery’s physical booth, “would be difficult to hang side by side…a strange juxtaposition.” Online, however, there’s a more captive audience, one whose attention can be guided and coaxed by savvy user experience. The ABMB online viewing room netted $1.5 million in sales; that total included big-ticket items like a $450,000 Oscar Murillo canvas.
And despite the flatness of the digital medium, it’s not just two-dimensional work that is moving online. Soboleva was pleasantly surprised that David Zwirner’s two biggest-ticket viewing room sales thus far—both made during 2019’s Art Basel fair in Basel—were sculptures: a 1991
work (for $900,000) and a 2015
pumpkin (for $1.8 million). Video currently provides a decent facsimile of the in-the-round experience of three-dimensional work; as virtual reality platforms become less clunky, it seems likely they’ll become an additional facet of the online viewing room experience.
“Online, we want to be bringing even more experimental and artist-driven projects, which I think is what you’re going to be seeing in the next year,” Soboleva added. Rather than simply being a pale echo of a gallery exhibition, the future of online viewing rooms likely involves exploiting where the digital space can be more robust than the old-fashioned experience of looking at art in person.