How David Zwirner and Gagosian are Revolutionizing Gallery E-Commerce
Traditional galleries with increasingly untraditional initiatives, using online viewing rooms to shatter the status quo.
It is no secret that the economic crisis of 2009 impacted most industries in a significant way--the art industry was no exception. But despite dwindling paychecks and scarcity of jobs, the art market somehow mustered up its strength and rebounded with a new outlook on how the art world should work--a call to modernization. This shift provided online e-commerce platforms the opportunity to win over traditional players and convince them to bring collections online, enabling users (consumers, dealers, auction houses alike) to browse without stepping into a physical gallery.
With the growth of online sales, an entirely online trade show seemed to be the natural next step, bringing about the debut of The VIP Art Fair in 2011. But after two years of glitches, unimpressive sales, and general inefficiency, the venture was deemed a complete failure by big names such as David Zwirner.
Perhaps it was Zwirner’s disappointment with The VIP Art Fair that incited the gallery’s move to launch their very own online viewing room in 2017. The goal was to “curate small exhibitions to tempt the audience that is extremely comfortable interacting with us online,” David Zwirner told artnet News. The launch of the “room” has seemingly accomplished that goal, as it cycles through new exhibitions and engages with a younger online audience.
Now, other big-name galleries like Gagosian are following suit as news of the success of the viewing room has spread. Both galleries are motivated by the prospect of expanding their audience, but Gagosian has additional reasoning behind their online initiative. According to Sam Orlofsky, a director at Gagosian, another motivation is the chance to create “an event-driven opportunity for buyers—both old and new, and within a specific price range—at a time when traveling for every major art fair and auction is becoming less and less feasible.”
Orlofsky goes on to say that watching auction houses acquire new audience members with such ease brought about the realization that an online viewing room “would ‘match’ auction house standards for access, price transparency, and user experience.”
What do these viewing rooms look like?
David Zwirner’s viewing room acts as an extension of their website. By clicking on the “viewing room” tab under the drop down menu you are taken to a form that asks for name and email address, giving users immediate access to “the room.” There is a brief explanation of the exhibition and the list of artists, just before the works of art that are clearly labeled-- many with transparent prices.
Gagosian, like Zwirner, does not allow users to buy from the site, but rather enables users to reach out to the gallery directly. The primary difference between the two platforms is that Zwirner’s room is constant whereas Gagosian’s room was only open for a three week period. A time frame that encompassed Art Basel, Frieze New York, and several other major New York auctions. An intentional plan to digitally supplement the frenzy of sales taking place in the physical world.
Over the years, it has become obvious that many fair-attendees had to strictly allocate their time to participate in every event or as Orlofsky notes, not attend the fairs at all. Spending a few days in each location is complicated with no guarantee of seeing everything you planned to. This inconvenience juxtaposed with the “tech-driven convenience” we are all used to today, shows a gaping opportunity for technology to simplify the art world.
What was the outcome of the online viewing room?
“It exceeded our wildest dreams,” says Orlofsky. In just 10 days, half of the works in the viewing room found a buyer, including; a “$225,000 Rudolf Stingel, a €200,000 (roughly $230,000) Katharina Grosse, a $275,000 Joe Bradley, and the crown jewel, and a €950,000 (roughly $1.1 million) Albert Oehlen.” The “room” also brought in 537 new collector contacts, 25,000 total users, and led to over 117,000 page views. Orlofsky believes that this is a strong indicator that people are ready to expand their “threshold of what they’re comfortable with [online].”
This successful fusion of art and technology worked for Zwirner too. Their Yayoi Kusama exhibition consisting of prints ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 sold out within a week and several Josh Smith works sold out just after being published. When asked about this venture Zwirner noted, “When we started I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. But now I feel that it’s going to be an important part of what we do in two years, three years, five years, and I’m really excited about that.”
Schneider, T. (2018). Is Everything We Know About Gallery E-Commerce Wrong? How David Zwirner and Gagosian’s New Initiatives Break the Rules. Retrieved from https://news.artnet.com/market/zwirner-gagosian-online-viewing-rooms-1313270?utm_content=from_artnetnews&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US newsletter for 7/9/18&utm_term=New US Newsletter List