A cultural experience in a multitude of forms : bricks and mortar, online, podcasts, publishing, with David Zwirner’s director Veronique Ansorge and partner Greg Lulay
On March 16, 2020, as the world closed its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Robin Pogrebin, a reporter on the Culture Desk of the New York Times, reported the following on the effect to the art world.
In 2017, having realized how much business the gallery did through online previews before art fairs, the dealer David Zwirner decided to develop virtual viewing rooms.
Now, as art fairs are canceled, museums close and auction houses consider whether to call off their spring sales in response to the coronavirus, Mr. Zwirner seems prescient.
This week Art Basel will, for the first time, offer online viewing rooms to replace the Hong Kong fair that was canceled this month because of the pandemic. More than 230 dealers who planned to bring work to Asia will instead offer some 2,000 pieces through the virtual fair with an estimated value of $270 million, including 70 items over $1 million. And galleries throughout the United States are considering web-based works and curated online exhibitions.
The future has “arrived so much sooner,” Mr. Zwirner said. “If galleries are closed, how can we sell art? The online platform is something we have envisioned as an important part of what we do.”
March 16, 2020, New York Times, Art & Design
DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY, AND A PRESCIENT GROUP OF GALLERIES WITH INSIGHT AND FINANCIAL WHEREWITHAL, HAD BEEN WORKING ON CREATING SOPHISTICATED ALTERNATIVES TO VISITS TO GALLERY EXHIBITIONS AND ART FAIRS FOR SEVERAL YEARS. COVID-19 WAS SIMPLY A CATALYST INTENSIFYING THE SPEED WITH WHICH BUSINESSES OF EVERY TYPE, BE THEY ESSENTIAL, FINANCIAL, RETAIL, NON-PROFIT OR CULTURAL HAD TO EMBRACE NEW WAYS OF COMMUNICATING. IT IS THE VIEW OF LRFA BLOG THAT EVEN AFTER THE WORLD RETURNS TO A NEW NORMAL, THESE DEVELOPMENTS ARE VERY MUCH HERE TO STAY.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO HAVE THE DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY TEAM OF VERONIQUE ANSORGE AND GREG LULAY SHARE THEIR HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND THOUGHTFUL PERSPECTIVE ON THE MULTIPLICITY OF WAYS IN WHICH DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY ATTRACTS, RETAINS AND GROWS ITS CULTURAL AUDIENCE.
WHEN DID THE GALLERY BEGIN TO DEVELOP ITS ONLINE PRESENCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VERY FIRST EFFORTS AND WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE?
GL: Well, it’s interesting to go back to not so many years ago. The way images are disseminated has changed dramatically and that’s true for many industries. I remember labeling transparencies. We used to take photographs of artworks and then take that film, send it out and have transparencies duplicated from negatives. We used to mail offer packages by FedEx, which is just insane to think about now. But as time changed, so did technology and the way in which we – as a world – are used to disseminating, receiving, and digesting those images. We found quite quickly that clients and audiences became more accustomed to looking at art and making decisions on a screen. While there is no replacement for physical interaction with an artwork, many more people around the world are experiencing art on the digital platform. With this, in 2017, the gallery began to put more emphasis on our website – we realized that there could be a different way for audiences to connect with us online.
We want to bring the work of our artists to a larger audience around the world, and that’s really what the intent is here.
DID YOU FIND THAT THE CLIENT BASE DIFFERED FROM THAT OF THE “BRICK AND MORTAR” CLIENTS AND, IF SO, IN WHAT WAY?
VA: I think that a very important component of developing our online efforts has also been developing the backend – we really have a strong team that works on data mining and understanding how clients move online. There is an audience that is much more in tune with the internet and navigating websites, younger people tend to be more confident navigating online.
GL: Yes, and Leslie, I think that your question whether we see a difference between clients who are finding us or looking at our content online versus those who are coming in to our brick-and-mortar galleries is an interesting one, but I think the larger question is really about the overall audience that now makes up this current art world. It’s changed, it’s grown, it’s international, and it’s well educated. People are looking at work from galleries from all over the world at the same time and in various ways. One of the unique services that a gallery provides is an experience that is completely free. Providing that access and that freedom in a larger way online is quite interesting for us. There are many people who are used to seeing art in a brick-and-mortar space. It’s what they prefer, and that probably won’t change for them, but a large number of people in this world have become accustomed to looking at things, reading news, receiving information, exchanging personal information through various online and social channels and that is what we are trying to embrace here. Often we find this online audience to be younger because generations have grown up in this new norm, but I think that on a whole, most people are now used to at least having an initial discussion online even if it is followed up with a phone call and visit to the gallery. That’s how we communicate.
WHEN DID THE GALLERY LAUNCH THE GALLERY PODCAST, DIALOGUES, IN WHICH EACH PODCAST EPISODE PAIRS TWO CREATIVE PEOPLE, USUALLY A WRITER, OR CURATOR AND A VISUAL ARTIST? WHO DECIDES ON THE CONTENT? WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE TO THE PODCAST BEEN AND IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU PLAN TO EXPAND IT?
GL: One of the many things the gallery provides is a very strong cultural experience, and that can take many forms. We have a Content Team that is developing various types of cultural experiences online so that you can, for example, virtually walk through an exhibition or see one of our artists in their studio. Lucas Zwirner came up with the idea of our podcast and then developed it with his team, and it has been famously received.
VA: This was started in the summer of 2018. Now we are in our third season, and it’s been really successful. I hear from people all across the world that they enjoy the content. We do try to create content that directly speaks to what’s physically going on in our spaces around the world. For example, we recently launched a podcast with Doug Wheeler and Vija Celmins parallel to Doug’s exhibition at the gallery.
GL: There’s such a rich exchange of material that we are hoping to bring to our audiences, which ultimately is to further the careers and understanding of the artworks that our artists are making. The podcast is an incredible addition to what we as a gallery have been doing for years.
ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO REACH A GLOBAL AUDIENCE IS THROUGH ART FAIRS. GALLERIES ARE EXHIBITING EXAMPLES OF WORKS THAT THE GALLERY REPRESENTS TO PROVIDE VISITORS TO THE FAIR WITH A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR WORK AND OF THE AESTHETIC PLATFORM OF THE GALLERY ITSELF. WHETHER ONLINE DUE TO THE SHUTDOWN DURING THE PANDEMIC CRISIS OR IN PERSON, AT ART BASEL SWITZERLAND, MIAMI ART BASEL, BASEL HONG KONG, FRIEZE LONDON AND NEW YORK, TEFAF OR SAN FRANCISCO’S FOG: DESIGN AND ART, THE MISSION IS THE SAME: TO INCREASE THE GALLERY’S PRESENCE WORLDWIDE.
NEXT WEEK WE WILL EXPLORE THIS IN DEPTH. THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING THE LRFA BLOG!