Gagosian's Online Viewing Room scores with Oehlen; Christie's Asia Week = $79.2m; Bonhams African art dominated by Ben Enwonwu.
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Three hours. That’s all it took for Gagosian Gallery to sell Albert Oehlen’s untitled 1988 abstract painting priced at $6m and featured in their Online Viewing Room (OVR) less than a week before Art Basel Hong Kong opens.
Gagosian has been experimenting with its OVR before major art fairs as a way to add capacity beyond the fair hours and overcome some of the limitations of geography as well as combatting fair fatigue. For Art Basel Hong Kong, Gagosian took a different approach. Instead of treating the online viewing room as an enlarged backroom to the fair booth where prospective clients can acquaint themselves with various works, the ABHK viewing room was structured around a single painting getting virtual front-of-booth, star treatment.
The first OVR made $1.8m in sales including $1.1m for a single painting by Albert Oehlen. Since that time, Sam Orlofsky, the Gagosian director who has been leading the OVR effort, has been trying to think through the implications of the OVR. First Orlofsky established the value of the OVR functioning in sync with real-world events like art fairs. Then, Orlofsky was curious to see how far the OVR could push the price level. In other words, Gagosian learned it could sell a $1.1m painting from the viewing room. Could it sell one valued at $3m? $5m? or more?
For a number of reasons, Oehlen was the best place to start. His market has been building in volume and value. Just last year, the artist’s work crossed the $4m barrier at auction, a figure that Gagosian believes is significant market signal. Because the dealer has represented Oehlen for a decade or so, they had relationships with the sellers and buyers. The market momentum gave them the opportunity. All that was left for Orlofsky to do was to figure out how to coordinate and focus supply and demand using the OVR.
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