The first time I heard the word phygital was in early 2020. At that time, I was tempted to disregard it as yet another trend threatening to ruin the charm of all things old school, almost hoping it doesn’t spoil my experience of absorbing art. In 2021, of course, I have a different stance. As the pandemic hit, the art fraternity collectively embraced this concept of using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world, with the purpose of providing a unique interactive experience for the user. Of course, it had become the need of the hour as well. So where do the artists stand today, I took the question to a few to find out more.
Egyptian artist Samar Kamel is convinced that the future, rather present, if one may see, has to be a balance between virtual and physical exhibitions. She adds, “Even if it has to be with more restrictions on indoor spaces, art lovers will still look forward to and find themselves observing art from a larger distance, on many occasions preferring it over a screen.” Pakistani artist Batool Jafri agrees that while a lot has changed, it has also created many opportunities for artists to connect with their audiences virtually, “which is a good aspect if used wisely”. And what about the buyer, can I buy a piece of art without having looked at it, up close and personal? It depends on the buyer, opine artists. Petra Kaltenbach, a German artist, says, “The different buyer classes have different demands. Those buying decorative art are comfortable with online buying. For young collectors, however, it is important to see the art in person or even better to meet the artist. The latter involves research to find the right artist and artwork. The experienced art collectors rely on the advice of art consultants, so for them, it doesn’t matter if they see the art physically before they buy or not.”
Are you looking to walk into some virtual spaces? Join me. The Third Line, Dubai, in conjunction with Art Basel, has introduced an online viewing room where art enthusiasts can enjoy the works by simply creating a profile on the Art Basel portal. Interestingly, New Delhi Private School, Sharjah, has a virtual art show featuring works by their student artists. Online visitors can walk through the gallery, click on artworks, and leave comments to encourage the budding artist. Indian artist Sonu Sultania shares she is happy to see galleries and museums adapting to newer ways to create a safer art experience. “Be it by creating virtual galleries or limiting visitor capacity in actual ones or requiring pre-bookings. Going forward, we all have to focus on new strategies and technologies for producing and presenting art.” Lebanese artist Kristel Bechara says that we will see the art market adapt and adopt concepts like phygital “for the foreseeable future to keep things going and facilitating relations between potential buyers and artists”. And here’s another one worth making a stopover. Viewing Rooms at Opera Gallery, Dubai, are offering visitors a chance to explore, collect works from curated online-only exhibitions, with one that stands out being PAD London, a cross-cultural, engaging experience featuring artists such as Fernando Botero, Joan Miró, Pierre Soulages, and Manolo Valdés.
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