Le Louvre in Paris, The Prado in Madrid, The Met in NYC. Notable museums that can be found at the top of our bucket lists. During a time of staying inside and social distancing, we find ourselves itching for a chance to immerse ourselves in art, a privilege we may have taken for granted. Museums aside, the pandemic has also halted traditional gallery viewings and art fairs all across the world, impacting the art business in unprecedented ways. Like all businesses at the top of their game, it did not take long for some throughout the world to transition their space to a virtual art gallery, leading to millions of people being able to soak in the wonders of galleries they may have never been able to visit before, at home and afar.
Bo Young Song, a world-travelling gallerist from Seoul’s prestigious Kukje Gallery, gave us some personal and professional insights into how the traditional world of art galleries is evolving. “The pre-COVID-19 art world was making headway towards globalization with all the art fairs, biennales, exhibitions, conventions, etc. It came to a point where I was seeing my friends based in Belgium or Copenhagen significantly more often than my own family based in Seoul. I believe this situation will call for the localization of the art world…I think this will also give us a chance to think of ways to focus on and give back to our respective local communities.”
There are numerous museums all around the world taking advantage of digital systems to create memorable experiences for their virtual guests. Spotify playlists have been linked to some virtual tours, blending modern music with classical art. Live tweeting and chat options available by select galleries allow viewers to interact with curators and artists in ways more intimate than before. Guided tours with factual pop-ups can bring wonderful insights to museum “go-ers” as well. “Galleries and museums (especially ones that have not already done so) have established online viewing rooms and virtual exhibitions for this age of self-quarantine. While the potential of the online portion of the market was already a topic of discussion, the pandemic has definitely fast-tracked this seismic shift in the art viewing experience,” says Bo.
So, what does this shift in gallery experience mean for gallery go-ers? While nothing may compare to seeing a Dali piece up close and personal, a virtual tour of his work with a curated playlist and facts popping up on your screen may not be as bad as we think. A lot of galleries are taking this time as well to update their spaces and create a better experience for their viewer upon re-opening. Bo explains that her gallery’s been able to expedite two milestone projects at her gallery: “the reopening of our K1 space, fully equipped with an exhibition space, café and restaurant, and wellness center, and the launch of Kukje Online, our online viewing room. Kukje Online aims to complement the offline experience of physically visiting an exhibition and chart an exciting path for the gallery to better engage audiences worldwide.” An absence of physical viewing rooms may prove to help modernize and improve upon traditional gallery visits. “Rather than replacing the offline experience of visiting an exhibition, we believe that this new venture will complement the limitations of the brick-and-mortar.”
Despite feeling like we are living in a new normal, we can embrace and welcome change as it can open up numerous possibilities for all. What once seemed so far, can be seen with a click of a button. Embracing art and culture and exposing yourself to galleries you’ve never even heard of can inspire and enlighten you. Throughout history, art is something that people have always tried to preserve. “Being a gallerist, I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of art and solidarity during challenging times—times like these. I’m thankful that I am in constant communication with my friends and colleagues who share this belief, as we think of ways to navigate through this new reality.” Yes, these times may prove to be anything but ordinary, but there is a great big world out there – log on and explore!
*Kukje Gallery opened at the center of Seoul in 1982, it has been committed to presenting the work of the most current and significant Korean and international contemporary artists.
To visit their online viewing room, click here.