Several galleries have chosen to show works they either couldn't have realised in a booth or look just as enticing on a device.
Philippe Parreno, My Room is Another Fishbowl (2016). Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London.
When they launch this week, Art Basel Hong Kong's (ABHK) Online Viewing Rooms will include presentations by over 90 percent of the galleries slated to take part in the physical fair. Altogether, 231 galleries will present artworks worth over US $250m to VIPs from March 18 and to the public from March 20-25.
The Online Viewing Rooms, accessible at artbasel.com/viewing-rooms and on the Art Basel App, were announced shortly after the physical fair was cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19, and the change in formats has encouraged galleries to show different kinds of works. Some have moved away from pieces designed to draw in selfie-taking fairgoers, replaced by works that, for instance, are better suited to screens or benefit from almost unlimited virtual space online.
Early indications from galleries are that the online fair has been a viable way to sell works.
'With the opening bell of Art Basel, both seasoned and new collectors from Asia and Europe bought eight works which we're thrilled to announce,' said Hauser & Wirth's Iwan Wirth. Among them was Water Treasure (Black Light) (2019) by Pipilotti Rist, among the Ocula Advisory team's selections for the fair.
'Much is being said about digital: it is just the new norm,' Wirth added. 'We've done it for years and it shows. Our clients use it.'
Philippe Pareno's My Room Is Another Fishbowl
Pictured top is Philippe Parreno's My Room is Another Fishbowl (2016), conceived for his installation at the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. The installation consists of 90 screen-printed Mylar fish balloons, each about 2m long, including 30 salmon, 30 smelt, and 30 roache. It's showing online with Pilar Corrias, London.
Victoria Sin's If I had the words to tell you we wouldn't be here now
Victoria Sin, If I had the words to tell you we wouldn't be here now (2019). Documentary Film of Live Performance, 16 January 2019 at Chi-Wen Gallery, Colour, Sound, 23min. Courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery, Taipei.
Taipei's Chi-wen Gallery is showing a selection of works by young Taiwanese photographers and artists that expands upon what they had planned to present in their ABHK booth.
'We're actually presenting more video than we could have done in a physical booth at the fair, as normally the soundtracks of the videos interfere with each other,' said Chi-Wen Huang, Director of Chi-Wen Gallery. One highlight is Victoria Sin's If I had the words to tell you we wouldn't be here now (2019), a video documenting a live performance.
The gallery also adapted its offering by choosing to show fewer small photographs from its 'Just Kids!' programme, which documents youth culture in Taipei. They opted to publish photo-books and present the photos at next year's ABHK instead.
Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin's Madame de Void: A Melodrama
Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin, Madame de Void: A Melodrama (2018). Video still, HD digital video, multi-channel surround sound, 45 minutes. Courtesy the artists and David Lewis, New York.
David Lewis Gallery, New York has chosen to show a single video work in their online viewing room. The plot of the 45-minute film sees a woman fall in love with one of the dogs she is raising for its fur, a camp twist on the already camp Disney film 101 Dalmations (1996). Felix Bernstein, who created the film with Gabe Rubin, said about the work, 'cartoony worlds like Disney take on drag, queer, trans affectations and do deeply satisfying things but, in the end, it is a repressive desublimation.'
Kimsooja's Deductive Object
Kimsooja, Deductive Object (1997). Courtesy the artist and Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp / Hong Kong.
Axel Vervoodt Gallery, Antwerp / Hong Kong has decided against showing the Kimsooja work Encounter: A Mirror Woman (2017-2019) as part of the fair's Insight section. Mariko Kawashima, Gallery Director at Axel Vervoordt, said the work 'provides a stage for the audience to become active performers in a three-dimensional canvas', but of course it requires them to be there in person.
They are persisting in showing Kimsooja in the Online Viewing Rooms however, including works from her 'Bottari', 'A Needle Woman' and 'Deductive Object' series. Kawashima says she hopes the online presentation will communicate the artist's practice of 'non-doing' and 'non-violence'.
Yayoi Kusama's Life Shines On
Yayoi Kusama, Life Shines On (2019). © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Shanghai / Singapore / Tokyo.
While Axel Vervoodt chose not to show a mirror installation online, Ota Fine Arts, Shanghai / Singapore / Tokyo will go ahead and exhibit Yayoi Kusama's infinity mirror room Life Shines On (2019) at the online fair. A spokesperson for the gallery said the work would have showed in the booth at ABHK. Online, viewers will be able to see both interior and exterior images of the work and a detailed description of Kusama and her oeuvre 'to give audiences a comprehensive view and understanding of the work.' —[O]