Set to take place in The Cloud in Auckland’s CBD, the Auckland Art Fair was swiftly moved online after COVID-19 limited the travel and capacity of events. From Thursday 30 April – Sunday 17 May the ‘Virtual Art Fair’ appears online featuring 35 galleries from New Zealand, Australia, China, and the UK— showing the works of more than 175 artists.
Fair directors, Stephanie Post and Hayley White wanted to continue with a virtual edition that celebrates the talent and diversity of art through this time. “This Virtual Art Fair is in recognition of the artists who have already made special works for the Art Fair that couldn’t happen, and the galleries who have supported them in doing so,” Post shares. “It comes at a time of global uncertainty when the importance of art, community and culture are especially apparent.”
The Auckland Air Fairs, and others like it, will continue to support the industry through these challenging times. The lack of entrance fee for the buyers (and low fees for the galleries) offers a chance for experimentation and may bring together a broader audience — one who may not have made it to Auckland.
“Browse, look, enquire and consider,” Post continues. “Get to know new galleries and new artists and if you possibly can, support contemporary culture at a time when the artists and galleries really need it.”
The benefits to online art come in different forms, including longer time to sit with the artworks in a more intimate viewing — like I’m doing right now, in my home, noticing the subtleties of Jalal Asgher’s graphite on paper artwork, Hedy Lamarr (2020) in Ivan Anthony. Without the hustle and bustle of the fair, the still and commanding portrait of the Austrian actress and inventor drew me in. Ironically without Lamarr, this viewing wouldn’t be happening, as she was the first to invent of frequency hopping, leading to modern-day Wi-Fi.
What I gain in exploring the site solo, is also what I lose, that immediate sense of connection with the gallery; the casual conversation about particular works. A handy ‘enquire’ button, while useful for sales, removes the spontaneity of communication — perhaps a live chat option, like with Facebook or Instagram would encourage this.
In other booths, Simon Denny’s artworks at Fine Arts, Sydney comment on data collection, and I enjoy the irony of the artwork becoming another form of metadata. Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert highlights the importance of quality digital documentation as their design objects —which often need to be seen in-person or given physical touch— look like contemporary photography. The actual photography for sale, stills from Lisa Reihana’s Nomad of the Sea, appear very much alive and living thanks to the array of expressive emotions that demonstrates Reihana’s directing skills.
Online art galleries and fairs can never replace the enjoyment of being in a gallery. However, just because we are discouraged from leaving our houses, it doesn’t mean our lives should be art-free — and with sells going digital, you can still bring your favourite pieces home!