Hamptons Virtual Art Fair seeks to explore new and better ways to use technology
NEW YORK, NY.- I come to this theoretical question from two different perspectives – as a buyer and as a seller…….. As a seller, in the form of an art producer who aggregates galleries, creating a dynamic marketplace for commerce. As a buyer and an avid art collector, who acquires regularly (partly out of addition), and has amassed 300 museum-level pieces.
From Stone Age to Digital Age in 6 months
Virtual reality has been around, since 1968, but has taken over half a century to find its way into the erudite marketing of art world usage and applications…but necessity is the mother of invention. Alas, in mid- March 2020, the arrival of the pandemic catapulted its usage by artist studios, galleries, museums, art fairs and even collectors to staggering new levels. Those who showcase art are always “on the lookout” for new and creative methods to display and offer their art (or should be). Although often painful moving quickly from the Stone Age to digital world, virtual reality allows art marketers to capture the “best of breed“ from cutting edge technology such that it is intuitive, practical, and easy to use for art enthusiasts, and enhances the art viewing experience. One has to be careful not be “too techie”.
3D is Here to Stay
3D virtual reality is presently being aggressively adopted by art galleries, museums, and even some art fairs that are closing their physical space, either for a period of time, or forever. The VR developers using 3D video technology can reconstruct the gallery walls, architectural design, floor plan and dealers can hang art on the walls, so that it appears to be the real gallery. This is a valuable application even if it is used to provide a gallery/museum additional display space without having to pay for the space and upkeep. Often these illusions/simulations are so lifelike, I cannot tell the difference between a VR image or the real physical gallery or museum location.
Where One + One is Three
VR has several advantages over 2D thumbnail sliding image technology, the viewer can create more of a bond or relationship with the art piece, and its third dimension gives the art a ” living aura” perhaps not found in 2D. In addition to zooming in for clarity, which one can also get in 2D, the viewer can meander from side to side and around the art piece, giving it, frankly, more dimension. In my mind, the real advantage of 3D VR comes with perusing sculptures, where visitors can actually walk around the piece in 360 degrees, and see it in every angle, just as the artist intended. Also, with 3D virtual reality technology, the gallery/ art fair can add some entertaining and alluring extra features, such as audio, auto tours, realistic and novel backgrounds for scale, change wall color, and even generate more useful data, and analytics. And with augmented reality you can place the artwork is the desired location in your home on your cell phone…
All that glitters…….
The downside of 3D VR reality usage is one of excessive loading time due to limited bandwidth. Downloading can take 20 seconds to 60 seconds, or longer, depending on one’s internet connection and device. Desktops and laptops provide significantly faster loading times than mobile devices, such as tablets and cell phone. With visitors used to 2-3 second page downloads, this could cause potential buyers to just “move on” and click away.
Solving this issue is a double-edged sword. One can reduce resolution quality of the image, which reduces the bandwidth issue, for faster loading; but low-resolution images can be viewed quicker, but they are fuzzy, and blurry, even when zoomed in. Would anyone want to acquire a blurry image? So that forces the gallery/art fair to present the work in vivid high resolution, and the painful tradeoff is increasing downloading time.
But of the two sides of the coin – speed versus clarity, I choose to present the clarity of the images. Now, there are some technological ” tricks of the trade” that can be used to improve download speed, such as better javascipt programming, using a scalable AWS server, using CDN networks, compressing /optimizing images, using SEO techniques, leveraging browser caching, and others, too confidential to mention here.
What you see is what you get
As a buyer, I have bought many pieces over the years without seeing the pieces, and many more since Covid hit when physical viewing was often impossible. Yes, I am comfortable with buying in 2D thumbnail technology with zoom function and detailed text. The 3D virtual reality is a much-added benefit, which I try to take advantage of, when available…
As the art world seeks to explore new and better ways to better use cutting edge technology, art enthusiasts will have to become more experienced, comfortable, and trusting (that it’s not a CGI video game) with 3D virtual reality. It will happen from repeated use. This 5 stage adoption curve was well defined in Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 landmark book,” Crossing the Chasm”, where Moore defines the process and challenges of moving new technology along the usage and acceptance bell curve, from innovators to laggards, and where successful execution creates and” bandwagon effect, until the technology becomes the de-facto standard.
Hedging My Bet
As an art fair producer of the 2020 Hamptons Virtual Art Fair, Sept 2-7, 2020, we are showing the art works in various technologies – thumbnails and a slight 3D enhanced version on a wall for scale (one image at a time) to solve slow open speeds. We also proudly present a 3D Virtual reality booth (all the images simultaneously) so as to meander the confines of the booth, which somewhat simulates the art fair experience, and the thrill of discovery. Art purchases can be made with BUY NOW option directly to the dealer in the VR booth. The fair presents 100+ booth displays, and over 2,000 images to choose from. But one element has continued to elude me – how to serve complimentary fine wine to fairgoers.