Virtually mine: browsing VIP Art Fair 2.0
I love art.
I love art so much that I spend almost all of my spare time writing about it for very little pay. I love the museum experience. I love speaking to artists, dealers, collectors. I’m fascinated by the art market. However, in addition to being an art and Italian culture writer, I also happen to have 20 years of experience in corporate marketing, and a good portion of the last ten years has been spent working specifically on Web marketing. I know a lot about how to use the Web strategically across a variety of industries, and I believe in it as a viable and necessary part of any company’s marketing strategy.
So what’s my point?
Well, it’s this. The VIP Fair — which in case you don’t know is conducted entirely online — got some unfair criticism, including what I thought was a purely personal rant by a writer in Forbes who didn’t even have the courtesy to contact the people at VIP to get any feedback or data from them before she unanimously declared the second-year fair, “bombs again.” (I’m sorry, but I absolutely refuse to provide a link back to this article. If you must you can Google it.)
I took great exception as a writer because I believe in responsible journalism and you can’t be a responsible journalist if you don’t do research and interview and quote more than one source. So, really hers was an opinion piece, but because it was published in Forbes, which many people involved in the art market read, it can be construed as factual, and that hurts the fair and the galleries and artists that participated — and why?
Well, in this case, I believe it was so that this writer could get some shock-value and feel important and impressed with herself. Well, what else is new? This is, after all, the art market, and it’s driven by mad egotists looking for glory, so it’s not so much of a surprise.
Just, if you read it, read some other articles about VIP, too. I did. I can assure you that none were like this. This fair was not a “bomb,” but I think they had some perception issues with people trying to compare the fair to real-life fairs, and you can’t.
A fair like this is really more of a branding opportunity and exercise – a way for galleries to reach a global audience for the price of a trade ad. It’s also a statistical opportunity because everything online is measurable and, if VIP is smart (and there are some very smart people behind it), they’ll amalgamate that data and create some really useful reports for participants that will provide solid strategic data about visitor’s preferences. Now that’s something that you really can’t do with the same accuracy at a real-life fair.
The art market is good. Most of the galleries that participated at VIP were at the upper tier and do well financially outside of the fair (virtual or otherwise) market. However, if we were to compare the gallery system to the stock market, it’s really small and mid-cap galleries that need to more fully embrace the power of online marketing and not shun it, or criticize what they don’t fully understand. Nobody expects, or God-forbid wants, the virtu-sphere to replace the experience of viewing art in person. However, the Web is a powerful tool and galleries that aren’t tapping into this power, along with the power of social media, are missing valuable branding tools.
So, if you’d like to hear all my thoughts on VIP, please read the article I just wrote for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper.