August is the Friday afternoon of the art business. Things slow to a crawl and inventory management or press release composition takes the place of more interesting things. As an attempt to avoid the heat, keep my job and get something done without actually going anywhere, let’s take a look at Saatchi Online. Many years back this was a curious ramshackle website filled with single artist pages. It looked out of date from the day it premiered. It was poorly made and completely ungoverned. Now the look and feel mimic many other online-only sites that exist in the commercial art realm, Artspace, Art.sy and Mutual Art. The quality still varies widely, but the site is usable and does not cause instantaneous internet fatigue.
above: New (left) vs Old (right)
Mega-collector, patron and recluse, Charles Saatchi does not seem to figure into this enterprise. While I imagine this site with its new online commerce features could be seen as an art Etsy, for now it does not feel this way. They seem to be giving the artists a space to show and sell and potential collectors to choose to assign the work to their digital collection with a commitment. One potentially career altering perk is 100 Curators 100 days. This is a project in which 100 curators from all over the globe each offer 10 selected works by some of the 60,000 people on the site. How the curators found their 10 would be a story I would like to hear.
In the time I spent hunting I found many artists whose work I would like to see in person. This is the same reaction I have with things like the VIP Art fair(s): ‘OH, I like that, I wish I could see it in person.’ Take the work of Jason Blackmore, found in Britt Salvesen’s curated group. I can see the Mondrian and van Doesburg influence and as for contemporaries lets say Florian Schmidt or maybe Sarah Morris. I still want to see the thing. But my interest is piqued and I can use this as a starting point. For the work that isn’t curated by the 100, or on a regular basis by the Saatchi gallery people, I am unsure how I will ever find it. It’s 60,000 at the moment, so it is going to take a while. A few other favorite finds so far: Edgar Martins, Marten Schech and Carolyn Williams.
Saatchi Online is basically the next iteration of the online art fair. VIP has done a pretty good job of making a virtual experience that is clean and helpful, if not really like being at a fair. The great thing about being at an art fair in person is the enjoyment of a new discovery. In recent years, I have found a few artists I love like Callum Innes and Susan Hefuna whose work I feel I would not have noticed digitally. As most of us know, Art Fair fatigue (symptoms include slouching from weighty tote bags, free espresso bug eyes and $10 tuna wrap breath) leads to missing out on a great many new discoveries! Lets hope that someone (besides Google) can marry this technology and the experience of seeing an exhibition.
I hope that galleries will take tools like this and use them to democratize that loathsome task of pre-selling an art fair. I get that big dealers will continue to create hype this way, but smaller galleries should utilize technology to get the feel of a show or art fair booth out to a wider audience then can physically walk through the door. Between open source layout software, advanced online art viewing technology, and multi-focus photography we should be able to get there very soon. Lets use this technology to show more work, create real feeling online exhibitions to grow interest in emerging art. Or maybe someone can fix it so I don’t have to pay $10.75 for a freakin tuna wrap.