art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions

art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions

as creative industries are increasingly affected by COVID-19, the art market is looking towards the potential of digital exhibitions to support their spring programming in lieu of a physical show. art basel — following the cancellation of its hong kong 2020 edition — recently launched new digital initiative to offer exhibitors an additional way to showcase artworks to its global network of patrons, collectors and buyers.


for its first iteration — live from march 20 to march 25, 2020 — the ‘online viewing rooms’ give exhibiting galleries the opportunity to present works they intended to show in hong kong — but the initiative isn’t stopping there. in the future, the new virtual showcase will continue to run in parallel to the shows, rather than replacing the physical experience of an art fair, to allow gallerists to showcase additional curated exhibitions of works not presented in a booth.

art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions
galerie thaddaeus ropac, lehmann maupin, PKM gallery
image © art basel



in art basel’s ‘online viewing room‘, collectors and cultural patrons will be free to browse a concisely-curated virtual catalog of thousands of works, searching by galleries, artists, and medium. also, just like the physical fairs, the online showrooms will begin with a preview, accessible only to VIP card holders, followed by several days when the showrooms will be open to the public. the ‘online viewing rooms’ are set to debut with an international lineup of 231 leading galleries from 31 countries and territories, presenting over 2,000 artworks.

art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions
galerie thaddaeus ropac
image © art basel



‘as the art market continues to evolve, art basel has continually investigated how new technologies can give us new opportunities to support our galleries,’ marc spiegler, global director, art basel said. ‘the online viewing rooms will provide galleries with a further possibility for engaging with our global audiences, complementing the essential personal interactions that continue to underlie the art market.’

art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions
société | lu yang
image © art basel



the virtual viewing potential for major galleries and cultural institutions is an expanding field, but not unchartered territory. david zwirner announced an online-only exhibition available simultaneously during art basel’s online viewing room, and at david zwirner online. ‘on painting: art basel online’ will feature sixteen works from the gallery’s artists and estates, highlighting those who have helped define figurative painting today by exploring its historical implications, as well as its conceptual dimensions as a medium in the contemporary moment.


‘on painting: art basel online’ marks the gallery’s 54th online viewing room, being the first major gallery to launch a digital exhibition in 2017. last june, it introduced its franchise of parallel viewing rooms presented to coincide with major moments on the global art-fair calendar, and has since presented successful online shows of fair-caliber work to coincide with frieze london and art basel miami beach. ‘…we are thrilled to premiere this presentation online,’ said elena soboleva, director of online sales. ‘showing the platform’s potential to reach a broad global audience at a moment when international travel and mobility have been disrupted.’

art basel to open 'online viewing rooms' as cultural institutions showcase digital exhibitions
sterling ruby, LANDING HELIOS (7096)., 2019
acrylic, oil, cardboard, and treated fabric on canvas, 96 x 126 inches (243.8 320 cm)
© sterling ruby | via gagosian viewing room



gagosian, which opened up a portal for virtual viewing in 2018, coincides its digital exhibitions of contemporary art with the preeminent art fairs, bringing art outside of the booth and making it accessible to an ever-wider audience. ‘gagosian has created some of the strongest exhibition spaces throughout the world, and now, with the online viewing room, the audience further expands into one not limited by geography,’ commented artist sterling ruby, who premiered an online viewing room with gagosian during frieze london 2019.


with the increasing number of temporary closures of several major institutions, now including all three of the MET’s locations and all cultural programming at the shed, there are signs that curated, online-only exhibitions are a prestigious and innovative means of bringing global visibility to otherwise obscured art shows during exceptional circumstances — and beyond.

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