Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms free for 2020 fair exhibitors

Société by Lu Yang. Coutresy of Art Basel.

Art Basel has launched Online Viewing Rooms (OVR) – a digital initiative which allows exhibitors to display works – following the cancellation of its Hong Kong edition this year.

There are 232 galleries participating in the inaugural edition of the OVR, which will be live and free-to-access from March 20th to March 25th, 2020. All galleries that were accepted to the 2020 Hong Kong show are invited to participate at no cost for the first edition. Each gallery is allowed to upload a maximum of 10 works.

Similar to the physical fair’s format, the showrooms will begin with previews for those with VIP cards, from March 18th to March 20th, 2020.

In the long run, OVR will take place in parallel with the shows, enabling gallerists to showcase additional curated exhibitions of works not presented at the fair, each listed with a price range.

OVR aims to allow collectors to browse thousands of works, searching by categories such as galleries, artists and medium, and allowing them to contact galleries directly with sales inquiries.

Adeline Ooi, director Asia, Art Basel said: “We are delighted to be able to premiere this new initiative now. While the Online Viewing Rooms cannot replace our 2020 fair in Hong Kong, we firmly hope that it will provide a strong support to all the galleries who were affected by the cancellation of our March show.”

Ingleby, an Edinburgh-based gallery that was supposed to exhibit at Art Basel HK this year, said it intended to display about 60 works. The gallery still expects high demand through OVR.

Associate director at Annely Juda Fine Art, Nina Fellman, said buyer expectations had not been affected much by the changing of formats. “We normally send out information about what we are displaying at a physical fair a week to 10 days beforehand.”

I don’t think it will replace an art fair, because prospective buyers still want to see the works physically.”

Fellman said there has been a surge in online sales in the art world recently. She also noted that it was easier for galleries to complete transactions through online sales due to buyers sending necessary information altogether for a sale.

Marc Spiegler, global director, Art Basel said: “Art Basel has continually investigated how new technologies can give us new opportunities to support our galleries. 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’s OVRs are not the first virtual showrooms. Others had been working with these before the rise of the coronavirus. Contemporary gallery Gagosian launched an online viewing room in the year 2017-18 and saw digital sales rise 350%, according to Fast Company.

OVR will be available via the Art Basel website and the Art Basel App.