Home Magazine Virtual viewing room: 2020 must have

Largely developed to cope with the lockdown, Virtual Viewing Rooms have become an ongoing opportunity to ease one’s access to art galleries, in exchange for an email address. 

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As an unexpected effect of the Covid19, a sector known to be reluctant to the digital revolution such as that of the art market has rediscovered itself stronger than expectancies, dealing rather successfully with the social distancing practices and saving whatever could be saved. The most important art fairs have in fact bent over backwards to the emergency and, having suddenly overcome the concept of the irreplaceable experience of live art, they have reorganized themselves digitally in a very short time. In particular, Art Basel accelerated a process that was already underway, eventually gaining the approval of the exhibitors.

Digital proposals are disparate and range from simple layouts to real spaces to explore, which are likely to be increasingly integrated with 3D and augmented reality technology. 

This trend was anticipated by a few pioneers which had already moved forward. In 2017, David Zwirner decided to develop a viewing room, a word that suddenly turned into a must but that three years ago represented a blue ocean strategy. The following year, Larry Gagosian opened a small online section, following Zwirner’s lead. While auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's were already partially and smoothly organizing their events online, art galleries had yet to take this step.

One of the first consequences of this digital innovation is the revelation of prices. Usually kept secret by an unspoken galleries’ code, price disclosure will certainly raise debates on the status of modern art and on its shift from poetic expression to commodity. However, truth be told, online viewing rooms allow anyone to access places where they might feel uncomfortable or that are geographically unreachable. For exhibitors, this also means unlimited exhibition space and no spatial constraints. 

Moreover, considering the lower environmental and economic impact of online viewing rooms compared, for example, to having a sculpture travel to the other side of the world, a question arises: will art fairs lose their central role? The same doubt arises for galleries’ physical spaces.


Online Viewing Room Kerry James Marshall © David Zwirner


Cover image: Frieze New York's VR section 'Electric' in 2019. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy: Mark Blower/Frieze.

Wrtitten by Giulia Cami


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