Choosing the right online sales platforms and auction sites takes work, reflects Francois Mellé of Officine Saffi in Milan, as does establishing the best ways to present objects virtually. One gift the lockdown offered, however, was time, and the opportunity to try new things. ‘Our world is very tied to events,’ says Francois. ‘The quarantine period has given us the opportunity to work better online, on sales platforms such as Artsy and on our website and social media.’ In addition to profiling more work digitally and offering virtual studio visits, the team at Officine Saffi realised they had to ‘change our language’, noting that artworld communication can sometimes be over complex.
Ting Ying – a gallery that specialises in unique and limited-edition Blanc de Chine porcelain in Dehua, China – participated in new fair Eye of the Collector’s online viewing room (its first physical event was due to take place in May at London’s Two Temple Place). Ting Ying’s co-founder Peter Ting is really positive about the curation of this event – which offers an ‘intimate artistic journey from ancient to contemporary’ – explaining that it generated new contacts and direct sales for the gallery. With so many online events and platforms vying for attention, Peter has been careful to choose strategically to ensure his artists gain the right exposure.
Focusing on story-telling
Many galleries have been producing rich editorial content to tell the stories behind their artists’ work, in lieu of exhibitions. An inspiring example is the ‘From a Distance’ series produced by London-based Adrian Sassoon gallery, which delves deep into the practices of their artists based as far afield as Japan and Australia through specially commissioned photography, videos and interviews. The emphasis is more on helping people get to know their stable of artists, rather than a sales-heavy message. Building up layers of interpretation around an artist’s work to help audiences understand its value is vital work for galleries, with or without Covid-19. And for viewers, the privilege of glimpsing inside artists’ studios from the comfort of their home has been one of the joys of life in isolation.
Part of the story of a craft object, however, is how people interact with the final work – which is challenging to convey in the virtual space, especially when it comes to jewellery. Lizzie Atkins, of Holland-based Galerie Marzee, says their focus has been to offer more photography of jewellery worn on the body, which has been helpful in garnering interest, and sales. Galleries in Holland have been allowed to remain open during the pandemic but, like most organisations, Galerie Marzee has avoided events and group visits, instead providing virtual walk-throughs (below) of their (epic) 850m2 gallery space in Nijmegen on their Instagram and website.