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    Art Fairs Join Forces With ‘Virtual’ World

    Over its 14-year history, the annual Armory Show art fair has grown into one of the biggest events in the art world.

    NEW YORK—Over its 14-year history, the annual Armory Show art fair has grown into one of the biggest events in the art world. Now the fair has turned to online art marketplace Paddle8 for what organizers describe as a “virtual complement” that they hope will further expand its global reach and boost sales.

    Similarly, the Association of International Art Photography Dealers (AIPAD) is teaming up with online sale site Artspace for its upcoming AIPAD photography show that runs from March 29–April 1 in New York. Artspace has also announced e-commerce and marketing arrangements with Expo Chicago, the Texas Contemporary Art Fair,

    artMRKT San Francisco and artMRKT Hamptons.

    Other recently formed websites that aim to show and sell art include 1stdibs.com and artlog.com. Website art.sy.com (still in private beta testing) counts among its investors: Dasha Zhukova, founder of the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow and girlfriend of billionaire art collector Roman Abramovich; Wendi Deng, wife of Rupert Murdoch; and Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter. Among its advisers are dealers Larry Gagosian and Marc Glimcher, president of the Pace Gallery. Art.sy’s senior advisor is John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    Despite efforts at making major improvements for the second version of the online only VIP art fair, reviews of the recent edition (Feb. 3–8) were still mixed, with some dealers reporting solid results and follow-up, while others expressed disappointment at the lack of actual sales. A major difference in the recently announced Armory and AIPAD collaborations is the fact that the online aspect is an extension of the physical fairs.

    Of the 221 galleries showing at this year’s Armory Show, which will run March 8–12 on Piers 92 and 94 on the far westside of Manhattan, 100 galleries, or slightly less than half of the total exhibitors participating, have joined Paddle8 in a collaboration that will bring the art fair online. Paddle8 recently announced that it has received $4 million in Series A funding from a group led by technology and luxury venture capitalists.

    Collectors who sign up for Paddle8 can view, reserve and acquire work directly online. There is no cost for galleries to participate in this virtual aspect of the fair, though Paddle8 managing director Osman Khan explained, at a press conference, that for all sales actually made through the online platform, galleries will pay Paddle8 four percent of the overall sales price. Once a collector makes an offer on the site, a dealer has 72 hours to accept it. Buyers also have the option of purchasing insurance and shipping services when they acquire a work.

    Paddle8 co-founder Aditya Julka explained that galleries have the freedom to showcase both works that they are bringing to the fair as well as works that are in their inventory. And while there is no limit on the number of works that a gallery can display on its respective page, he notes that “beyond 20 or 30 works, it becomes difficult for collectors to browse.”

    Noah Horowitz, managing director of the Armory Show, said the fair hopes to reach new audiences and expand the presence of both its galleries and programming through the Paddle8 collaboration.

    A week-long preview of the show opened on Paddle8 on March 1 and will run through March 18, thus running for a full-week after the physical fair wraps up.

    Paddle8, which was launched last May, has participated in previous collaborations with NADA Miami Beach fair, in December, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary, in January. While Kahn described NADA results as “excellent,” he said Paddle8 also aims to maximize and “track interaction,” with collectors, as a measure of its success.

    Artspace Aims to Expand AIPAD Audience

    Artspace also views fairs as an important part of the art market. “We’ve been very focused on which fairs to associate with,” says Chris Vroom, co-founder of Artspace, which recently closed $2.5 million in Series A funding. “Photography is a fantastic medium for the web and a good kickoff for this part of our process.”

    Artspace already has dozens of partnerships in place with high-profile museums and galleries such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim, ICA Philadelphia and galleries such as 303 Gallery, Marianne Boesky and White Cube, London.