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First Virtual Art Fair Debuts Online Next Month

Technology has changed the way art collectors communicate with dealers and auction houses, research the pricing and history of artworks, and make decisions about what to buy.

NEW YORK—Technology has changed the way art collectors communicate with dealers and auction houses, research the pricing and history of artworks, and make decisions about what to buy. But the VIP Art Fair—a new “virtual” art fair debuting online Jan. 22–30—will take the concept of online collecting to a new level, as the entire show will exist only in cyberspace at the Web site vipartfair.com.

All of the participating galleries will have virtual stands that will attempt to simulate the actual physical placement of works in a booth, with paintings hanging on the virtual walls and sculptures sitting on the floor, presented in relation to human scale.

Visitors will be able to zoom in on a painting’s surface, get multiple views of a three-dimensional sculpture, or watch videos of multimedia pieces. Collectors who pay for access will be able to talk with dealers on the phone or in online chats with dealers via Skype or iChat. A VIP ticket, giving access to interactive capabilities, will cost $100 on the first two days of the fair and $20 thereafter. Browsing online will be free.

The show, organized by dealers James and Jane Cohan, has already signed up more than 135 contemporary galleries, and the roster includes many of the top galleries in the world, such as David Zwirner, White Cube, Gagosian Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, Sadie Coles and L&M Arts, as well as the James Cohan Gallery. The participating galleries fall into various categories—founding galleries, “premier” galleries (established spaces showing critically and commercially successful artists), emerging galleries or “VIP focus,” exhibitors who are showing the work of a single artist.

James Cohan hopes to attract both new and established buyers to the fair. He points out that the VIP Art Fair Web site is “not a transactional Web site; there is no e-commerce, but rather it is about empowering the collector to learn about the artwork and make a relationship with the dealer. … This site is about maintaining existing relationships and developing new relationships between collectors and dealers.”

ARTnewsletter will provide coverage of the results in a future issue.

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