Scott Reyburn recently made a strong case for why the recently announced VIP art fair will be a big success. He cites adviser Todd Levin who discounts the social aspects of art fairs, Anthony McNerney on the likely trajectory of sales and cites some stats on internet bidding from Christie’s. All of these are worth heeding.
However, let’s put an oar in before we give you the pro case: serious art seekers like Levin may be right that art fairs are not about the social aspects but it requires a huge suspension of disbelief to honor that statement. Art fairs are the Woodstock of the emerging global class. Even if the attendees aren’t really there for the music, the economic underpinnings of the events rely upon the social role art fairs play.
Also, Christie’s Live bidding takes place on the internet but as a conduit to a live auction held on site at bounded place and time. Christie’s Live bidders are not submitting bids in online auctions like those held at Ebay, Saffronart and Artnet.com. Those are the buying stats that would be relevant to VIP’s success.
Having said that, let’s give Reyburn the last word:
“Just out of curiosity, VIP is going to attract a lot of visitors,” Todd Levin, a New York-based art adviser and curator, said in an interview. “People have become confident about buying from J-PEGs, as long as they can be sure about the condition of a piece.” […]
“It’s a lot easier to go to an art fair when you can do it in an easy chair,” Levin said. The lavish parties and dinners thrown by galleries when collectors fly into town wouldn’t be missed. “If the social aspect is why you’re participating at an art fair, you’re not going for the right reason,” he said. […]
“It’s a brilliant idea,” said Anthony McNerney, managing director at the London-and Hong Kong-based gallery, Ben Brown Fine Arts, which is not, as yet, participating in VIP. “It will take time to take off. At first, probably only things that people know will do well, such as editioned sculptures and photographs.” […]
“It’ll probably take a year or so before a Korean or Indonesian collector spends $1 million for a work at a virtual art fair, but there could be anomalies,” McNerney said. “People tend to be quicker to make decisions when using the Internet. At art fairs, visitors look at things and have a think about it.” […]
Collectors are increasingly willing to use the Internet to buy art at auction. Already, a quarter of bids at Christie’s International auctions are made online, with such sales in the first half of 2010 increasing 63 percent from the equivalent period last year.