Looking at a 'phygital' future


Galleries are adapting and evolving to blend virtual spaces with their traditional offline activities

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Published: Thu 15 Oct 2020, 4:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Oct 2020, 6:35 PM

The world of art is constantly evolving, defined by the ever-changing world we inhabit. The pandemic continues to change the traditional artscape of exhibiting works. Sylvain Gaillard, Director, Opera Gallery Dubai talks of the future of art - the rise in virtual galleries, the ripple effect of Covid-19, and more.

We need art more than ever. Agree?
We've always needed art to begin with. Going back to the dawn of humanity, we have found drawings in caves dating thousands of years ago. The urge to produce art or document our era is engraved in our souls. Artists are often described as "observers of their contemporaries", and history has shown that troubled times have often led to some fantastic works. Given the peculiar events of 2020, we definitely need art now more than ever.

What are the changes a gallery needs to make to exhibit art of the future?
For the past couple of years, the industry has gradually shifted towards a stronger online presence. If anything, Covid-19 has accelerated that process. Whereby online viewing rooms were up until now being offered sporadically by a few, they are now a must. Galleries will have to adapt to this new environment, transpose physical exhibitions online, and create (or leverage existing) online selling platforms.

Will physical galleries need to compete with virtual ones?
I don't look at it as competition, but rather as something that needs to complement traditional offline activities. Virtual exhibitions are great in terms of reach; nothing compares with what an online platform offers. While I doubt that we can transition to a full-fledged online model yet, virtual exhibitions are fantastic in terms of lead generation. But there is an emotional aspect to buying art too. People still need to physically see what they are buying (especially at certain price points), and so far, nothing beats looking at a painting or sculpture with your eyes.

What's the ripple effect of Covid-19 on art, artists, galleries?
The acceleration of the transition to online presence for the entire industry is one. In terms of galleries, it might seem counterintuitive, but the business has been amazing since the end of lockdown. I can only speak for the Dubai gallery, but the collector's energy is high, and we've been busier than all the previous summers.

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