January 22nd marked the first day of the VIP Art Fair. What was supposed to be a momentous event in the art world turned into a frustrating delay of information, inability to log in, chat, browse or even look at art. Here’s my view of what happened and how the VIP Art Fair can still become a success.
Prior to the fair, I visited five of my favorite galleries in Chelsea as well as called a few galleries in Chicago and L.A. Most of the New York galleries doubted any type of profit to come from the fair, but were excited to embrace the “venue” as a place to exhibit large scale installations that could not be installed at a conventional art fair. Others thought the video artist bios would provide a wonderful educational experience for users. Some larger galleries actually hired people to specifically help them navigate through the process of putting a booth online. A few smaller galleries, however, had a dim view about the fair, calling it “annoying” for requiring their small staff to work endless hours.
After 2 hours of failed attempts to login, I finally logged in at 10:15am on Saturday morning. It took me about an hour to make it through 3 booths before I was logged off. Again and again this happened to me. In fact, three days later, I had finally viewed the entire fair. My list of Favorites keeps being erased and the tour functionality still doesn’t work. Of course I have been following Twitter and Facebook to see what people are saying. Twitter has been surprisingly calm, however, Facebook is through the roof with jabs such as:
“An exhibitor at the VIP art fair just said to me ‘Next year they should create the ESP art fair where all offers are made telephathically’”
“I love how yesterday there were far more angry status updates about the VIP art fair than there are right now about the Jets.”
My personal favorite is “I have a new term for “5 hours of online torture on a Sat afternoon… ” It’s called…. logging into the VIP Art Fair!!”
So what is the cause of all these problems? The VIP Art Fair claims it is lack of server space. I suspect it’s a bit of bad programming, lack of server space, as well as a lack of experience launching anything online. Long story short; The site does not have full functionality. I question why the VIP Art Fair did not hold a Beta launch with 5,000 art individuals to test the functionality of the servers and the programming? Why did they send out countless free invitations to everyone and their mother to login on the first day? Rumor has it the founders spent over $3.6 million building the site and who knows how much it cost to promote it, so why couldn’t they test the site or even invest in some of their own servers?
I want to tip my hat to the forward thinking galleries that signed on for the first year and also commend them for bringing amazing art. I have reached out to many galleries who have not reported any sales yet, but have received email communication from new collectors.
The VIP Art Fair has proven a few things. While wonderful in concept, it should only be an extension of a real art fair. Perhaps next year we will see the VIP Art Fair in conjunction with the Armory Show. Maybe the same software could be used as an extension of a museum show too. The most important lesson I have learned, though, is that the art world is ready to support any conceptually brilliant new project, but let’s face it, the VIP Art Fair let us down and its greatest challenge for the future will be convincing galleries and collectors to support it again.
TFAA’s Top Art Fair Picks:
1. Galerie Lelong – Great installation art. TFAA’s Best Booth of the Fair.
2. Fraenkel Gallery – Wonderful work by Richard Misrach and Adam Fuss. Great booth.
3. Donald Young Gallery – Beautiful works by Rodney Graham.
4. Lehman Maupin - The work by Ashley Bikerton and Jennifer Steincamp looks fantastic online. They have been swapping work out, so keep going back to this booth.
5. Andrea Rosen – The On Kawara alone is worth the look.
6. Marianne Boesky – A bit of everything. Very strong video works.
7. Rhona Hoffman Gallery – Love Spencer Finch light installations.
8. David Zwirner – The usual suspects, but still fantastic.
9. Yancey Richardson - Alex Prager, Richard Moore, great images here.
10. Feigen - Ray Johnson collage.
11. Postmasters – Steve Mumford.
12. Johan Konig – Interesting young artists.
13. Pilar Corrias Gallery – There is great energy in this booth.
14. Wallspace – Exciting works and known artists.
15. Carl Solway Gallery - Photographs by Ann Hamilton.