This past summer, Toronto architect Shari Orenstein and creative agency rep Hesty Leibtag launched Curated on Instagram. The non-profit virtual art sale featured creators at various career stages, including painters Shelley Adler and Kris Knight, with works ranging from $250 to $5,000. Its goal was to help Canadian artists make ends meet through the pandemic, but it also allowed a lot of novice art buyers access to a market that used to be quite opaque.
It’s been a year of cancellations and postponements for the art world. But in the absence of fairs and gallery exhibitions, technology has stepped up to connect collectors – including those pondering a holiday purchase – to new work. “The pandemic has pushed for a broader, more egalitarian access to art,” says Wendy Chang, the director of Vancouver’s Rennie Collection. Her gallery has its own Instagram feed but it’s also one of many now using virtual reality technology by the app Artland to show work in vivid detail, no matter where the viewer is.
“The atmosphere of an opening night contributes so much to how people engage with the work,” says Tobin Gibson, who operates the Unit 17 gallery in Vancouver. In lieu of that in-person buzz, Gibson says virtual exhibitions provide more information, especially around cost, that encourages casual collectors to consider purchases with an immediacy lacking in the price-by-request format of many traditional shows.
Curated’s debut resulted in 50 of the 60 exhibited works being sold, and Orenstein and Leibtag are planning to hold social media-driven sales periodically through 2021. At a time when artists need patrons, it’s fortunately never been easier to become one. – Adrienne Matei