With an eye toward the fast-growing digital art market, Pace Gallery, which has nine locations on three continents, has made a substantial new hire, appointing Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle as its first online sales director. Boyle will start at the gallery on May 3 and will be based in New York.
Last year, after the pandemic closed its physical locations throughout the world for several months, Pace mounted close to 30 online exhibitions, which drew in around 5,000 online visitors on the show’s first day, according to data provided by the gallery. “It became clear that we needed a strong creative lead within the team dedicated to developing our online program and working closely with artists on bringing their new projects to fruition,” Amelia Redgrift, Pace’s chief communications and marketing officer, said in an email.
Boyle has been senior director at Canada since November 2019, and recently curated her first exhibition there, “Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm,” which runs through April 10 and includes art by Kenya (Robinson), Qualeasha Wood, and others.
In her newly created position at Pace, Boyle will work with the gallery’s existing sales and marketing teams to expand its digital offerings and reach new audiences, and oversee the gallery’s online sales strategy.
In an email interview, Boyle said she aimed to focus not only on programming held in connection with exhibitions and fair booths, but also on developing live elements as part of the gallery’s online sales. “There’s no denying the ‘in-person’ experience currently supersedes the digital, but there are parts of these technologies that can provide a revitalized perspective [on] how we appreciate and acquire art,” she said.
This furthers work that Boyle did at Canada, where, in the early months of the pandemic, she helped build an online sales platform for Canada—a feat for a gallery of its size. When the gallery launched its first online viewing room, it sold more than half of the work in the exhibition within the first 24 hours.
“With the onset of the pandemic, all eyes shifted to the virtual space, and my interest in the creative elements of online viewing rooms became an obsession,” Boyle said. “I started by taking the developer end into my own hands first, dedicating my evenings to expanding my knowledge of basic coding theory to build a new site from scratch. While many galleries were taking the same approach, I wanted to develop a platform that was native to Canada’s ethos and formulate a digital curatorial archive that could grow and expand with the gallery’s needs.”
Part of Boyle’s job will also be navigating the gallery’s foray into NFTs, which have generated a buying frenzy over the past two months. Pace recently helped support the first NFT made by one of its artists, John Gerrard, whose practice has long incorporated digital technologies.
According to Redgrift, the gallery sees this as another potential area for growth. “The rising popularity of NFTs is introducing another artistic medium into their lexicon, and we have artists keen to explore it with our guidance,” she said.
Boyle said that the gallery is already strategizing how it might continue navigating the NFT terrain. “I understand there has undoubtedly been a large amount of speculation around NFT’s since their inception within the art market, but the positive impact this technology could have on the art world with the support of scholars, curators, and galleries ultimately outweighs the negatives,” Boyle said.
Though part of the ethos of NFTs is to cut out art galleries, who sometimes act as middlemen in sales of artworks, Boyle said that Pace has always taken an “artist-first approach,” adding, “Many artists still understand the need for advocacy and support from their dealers, which extends beyond just sales. For us, our progression into the use of this technology to further expand our artist’s practices and reach is only natural.”