Sarah Douglas got an exclusive interview with gallerist James Cohan on ArtInfo.com as he explains how his VIP Art Fair, the online week-long event to take place in January 2011, will function. Essentially, he seems to be getting galleries to pay him for access to other galleries client lists. Here’s how it works:
How have you explained all of this to your exhibitors?
What I say to the galleries is that what we are doing is creating an elaborate Venn diagram in that each of us will invite our active clients, give them VIP cards, and create an aggregate of them. Just like in a normal art fair, we will have invited the people we want to attend. That doesn’t mean they will just buy from the gallery that invited them. What’s interesting to me is that, long term, people buy from a person, not from a place. That’s why we want to have that interactivity with a specific person. When it gets down to it, you are dealing with a human being and having that interaction is important. The live chat is about having a discussion with someone — it starts as instant messaging and could proceed to Skype or the telephone. It’s an instant rapport that takes away the whole anonymity aspect of being online. It creates the possibility for a relationship to develop. So that the dentist in Des Moines can deal with his patients while continuing to pursue his passion for contemporary art. That is the beauty of this, from my point of view.
The fair’s selling point is that those without gallery contacts can pay $100 during the first two days and $20 during the remaining five days. Cohan explains the mechanics of the online chat that will require galleries to make staff available to converse with the curious:
So where does the interactive component come in?
Now that you’ve gained access to all of this, you then click on a button called “chat” with any given gallery and what drops down is a list of the people available at that time — gallery directors — what languages they speak. We are suggesting that all galleries be available 18 hours a day, because we have exhibitors in many different time zones, from Australia, to Korea, to Europe, to the U.S.