I expect to see a lot more tweets from dealers Edward Winkleman and Magda Sawon January 22-30. Those are the VIP Art Fair dates — an online art fair 3 years in the making — and even if the event is “virtually” packed, dealers will still be able to multi-task while IMing. Plus, fair co-founder Jane Cohen told me in conversation recently that VIP recommends dealers spend about 18 hours online, citing the similarly crazy hours worked at Art Fairs. “Dealers are used to this”. she said plainly.
Fair enough, but are collectors? I’m willing to wager the rich will figure out IM if they haven’t already, since most of the art world’s leading galleries are participating. Also, this is not a complicated fair to navigate online. No 3D rendering or tastefully fadey flash runs on this website, a purposeful decision according to Cohan, “Rather than going into a 3D space might be off putting for some people and might be confusing or call a lot of attention itself, this is just a space that we walk through very easily. So we’re really focusing on art”.
This means high resolution images, all the bios and CVs you care to download, and the ability to showcase work normally too large and expensive to transport to a physical fair. There are some other nifty features, too: dealers can keep track of all their conversations with collectors and create private viewing rooms to woo individual collectors, and users can “favorite” work or share their collections for free. Actually reaching the dealers, of course, is a bit more costly – IM or Skype rights will run you $100, $20 after the 22nd. The only missing function seems to be the ability to e-mail clients from within the fair; for that, dealers need to use their own software.
Given the extended sales period, Cohan told me it didn’t make sense to offer a “buy now” function on the site. Past this, I expect more than a few collectors would not feel comfortable purchasing big-ticket items with a shopping cart icon. That’s a bit of a downer -because it would be nice to see an accurate tally of what’s been sold for once – but I guess that will have to wait until people are ready for it. I would expect that dealers, at least, would be interested in the ability to use some of the software Cohan’s developed on their own sites, though whether any plans are in the works is unclear – Cohan did not respond to those questions.
As for the booths, they come in three sizes: large, with 20 works on their wall, plus a total of 100 works in inventory; medium, with 15 works on display and 75 in inventory, and “focus, with” 8 works by one artist, plus 40 additional works in the back. Each have the ability to change the works they have on display as many times as they like over the course of the fair. I suspect this means that we’ll see more change on gallery walls than in a regular art fair, and perhaps that booth size will be less meaningful online; those answers, though, will come soon enough.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that since the one condition of entry to the show is registration, VIP Art Fair founders James Cohan and Co. will, this time next week, have the most complete (and most valuable) list of e-mails anywhere in the art world. It’s possible that even if the fair were to lose money, that mailing list would still put Cohan on top.