Commercial Galleries Adapt

Social distancing measures have had a ricocheting effect on all aspects of the Australian arts industry. For commercial galleries with visitation restricted and Thursday night exhibition openings put on pause, this has required quick-thinking, innovation, and a reliable internet connection, for galleries to reconfigure how they engage with audiences and ultimately, how they sell works. The digital initiatives being employed by galleries across the country have allowed viewers, both nationally and internationally, to connect with their exhibitions and stockrooms in new ways.

Virtual ‘walk-through’ tours and personal video content from gallerists and artists have been favoured by Sydney’s Dominik Mersch Gallery – their website featuring a highly interactive 360-degree virtual tour of Peta Clancy’s ‘Undercurrent’, an exhibition of recent photographs commissioned by Monash Gallery of Art. Saint Cloche’s group show ‘Holiday Dreaming’ (a poignant reminder during a travel ban) was broadcast into homes via ‘walk-through’ video, available on their website and Instagram TV channel. Both Andrew Baker Art Dealer and THIS IS NO FANTASY hosted virtual tours of Michael Cook’s exhibition ‘Livin’ the dream’, Baker’s was a 3D delivery and THIS IS NO FANTASY a video walk-through with an evocative soundtrack.

Holiday Dreaming, installation view, curated by Kitty Clark, Saint Cloche, Sydney. Courtesy the artists and Saint Cloche, Sydney

Some galleries show a preference for static high-quality images; Alcaston Gallery, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Cooee Art, Kate Owen Gallery and APY Art Centre Collective’s website encourage us to browse their exhibitions in Sydney and Adelaide, past and present. Brisbane-based Edwina Corlette Gallery, Sydney’s Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative, and EVERYWHEN Artspace in Flinders, Victoria were among those spaces to also feature installation imagery with their online catalogues of current exhibitions. Whereas galleries such as Hobart’s Bett Gallery and Outstation Gallery in Darwin include essays with their collection of web content and Melbourne-based Reading Room’s ‘Footnotes’ platform providing literacy musings from exhibiting artists such as Maggie Brink and Mary MacDougall and writers such as Michael Graf.

Works from Gallery 9’s aptly titled exhibition, ‘Augmented Reality’ has brought consulting and curating capabilities into the viewer’s own space – whether it be their home, office or otherwise. Featuring works from artists such as David Ralph, Julian Hooper and Eloise Kirk, the augmented reality experience allows users to virtually hang select works for scale. Subspace Projects have crafted a Virtual Reality Mode for their exhibition ‘On the Couch’, transporting the digitised exhibition into the homes of audiences wherever they are isolating.

Fremantle Arts Centre’s (FAC) annual exhibition ‘Revealed’ which surveys the work of 100 emerging artists working in painting, installation, video, textiles, photography, print media, jewellery, carving and sculpture was cancelled to prioritise community health. However, you can still support Western Australia’s Aboriginal art centres and artists via their online catalogue found on the FAC website.

Ray Crooke, Lei Making, 1979, oil on canvas on board, 45 x 60cm. © The Estate of Ray Crooke/Copyright Agency, 2020. Courtesy Shapiro Auctions, Sydney

The restrictions on live auctions has disrupted the scheduled sales for auction houses Australia-wide. This has lead to certain groups closing their doors, slated to reopen when the ban is lifted, or others adopting or finessing their virtual sales portals and tools for engaging with clients and bidders. At Leonard Joel, specialist staff are utilising FaceTime and WhatsApp to enhance the viewing options for prospective bidders. Aalders Auctions carried out their European, Asian, General and Estate sale on 22 April by an online live-streamed auction, with telephone and absentee bidding, in addition, to live online bidding. Sydney-based Shapiro Auctions are also maintaining their auction schedule online, using the web platform Invaluable, as well as telephone or absentee bidding. While operating online may have slowed down the bustle of the live auction process, Shaprio’s Australian and International Art sale, held on 16 April, resulted in works by artists such as Adam Cullen (1965-2012), Ray Crooke (1922-2015), Robert Klippel (1920-2001), Joan Ross, and Idris Murphy selling well above their high estimates.

Robert Klippel, Untitled No.33, 1984, collage and pencil on paper, 22.5 x 30cm. © Andrew Klippel/Copyright Agency, 2020. Courtesy the Estate of Robert Klippel, Annette Larkin Fine Art, Sydney, Galleries Gmurzynska, Zurich and Shapiro Auctions, Sydney

For more information on online offerings, visit the ‘Virtual Galleries’ and ‘Stockroom’ pages on the Art Almanac website – two new platforms showcasing the digital initiatives of Australian galleries.