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A new norm for the art world?

A new norm for the art world?

Tuesday 21 April 2020

A new norm for the art world?

A digital revolution was already well on its way to the art world when covid-19 reared its head, but the global pandemic has given the movement a "big viral push".

While Chris Clifford, Director of Jersey's Private & Public gallery, says he has embraced new ways of connecting with his audience, today he explains why he hopes that physical exhibitions and events never disappear...

"The coronavirus has been responsible for a major crisis in the art world.

Museums and galleries have been forced to close their doors and increasingly the only way to look at art is via a computer screen or mobile device. This has meant that curators and commercial art dealers have had to find new and innovative ways of connecting with their audience via the internet. 

Pictured: Museums like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam have made their most famous masterpieces available digitally.

In fact, it was already starting to happen before the virus spread globally and institutions such at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam have started to make their most famous masterpieces available digitally, free of charge, and in a way that allows the visitor to virtually stroll through the museum at their leisure and view artworks in detail from the comfort of their living room.

A new app is also soon to be launched that will allow visitors to create their own tours of their favourite artworks with the promise, ‘Never before has it been possible to get so close.'

That platform will be a fully interactive experience, allowing visitors to navigate through the gallery and aims to recreate the experience of casually browsing a museum with a multimedia guide, featuring the latest high-resolution 360º images, short videos, audio and text description.

Visitors ‘walk’ through the gallery at their own pace, zoom in on every tiny detail of each work of art and listen to stories about their favourite masterpieces. 


Pictured: Chris Clifford, Gallery Director at Private & Public. (Gary Grimshaw)

In more modest circumstances, and without the benefits of huge state subsidies, commercial galleries are also doing their best to follow the new trend.

Here in Jersey, I’ve started to investigate innovative ways of engaging with existing and future collectors by offering digital content via my gallery’s website and across our social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. 

So, at the same time as Jersey went into lockdown on Monday 30 March, we opened our first ever ‘virtual exhibition’ online for the British artist Nick Archer with an immersive view of his new show ‘Twin Peaks’ by offering a short film to provide context, a 3D virtual tour of the gallery spaces and a digital catalogue with an introductory essay and listings of all the artworks for sale. 

Video: Chris Clifford has shared videos about the exhibition online.

The public’s response so far has been very positive, and I’ve received hundreds of messages of support and encouragement, but the long-term value of our investment in digital technology will ultimately be judged on sales and at this stage its just too early to tell. 

That said, it does seem that creating new digital content across a range of online platforms will soon become the norm for all museum and gallery directors and will form part of a wider package of targeted marketing activities.

And, once we come out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, I would sincerely hope that it will still be necessary for art dealers to stage exhibition preview evenings, drinks receptions, auctions, artists talks, corporate events for willing sponsors and for the physical gallery spaces to remain open to the public as the experience of looking at and talking about art is an entirely social pastime. 

Pictured: Chris Clifford is looking forward to hosting preview evenings and drinks reception again.

For me those events are great fun and I the miss the social frivolity and excitement that goes with a packed room of people out for an enjoyable evening.

But, in the interim whilst we all remain closed, the digital examples I’ve shared show that the revolution in how visual art is presented to the public was well on its way, but that the coronavirus crisis has simply given it a big viral push."

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