April 8, 2013

GREENBERG: The New Chelsea

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Your computer screen is the new Chelsea.

Thanks to art-tech venture Dot Dash 3, you can now visit art galleries from the comfort of your home with just a few clicks — preferably while still wearing pajamas. According to an article last month in Artinfo, Dot Dash 3 (the name references the three dots and dashes for “art” in Morse code), is like a “video game for art collectors,” a virtual exhibition space where artists can sell their work and situate it within a gallery design of their choosing.

The site allows viewers to enter virtual art shows for individual artists. Along with images of the work situated in a gallery space, each show contains a description, an artist biography, information about specific pieces and prices for specific pieces.

The project departs from traditional galleries and traditional art sale websites in several important ways: First, unlike other websites for selling artwork, Dot Dash 3 shows what the individual pieces would look like installed, as if in a real gallery space. However, the artist does not have to adhere to existing dimensions like they would in a traditional gallery. They instead get to design a new space entirely. Although the current shows all simulate traditional white cube gallery space, the site provides the option of creating other virtual spaces for the work, as the owners of the company pointed out to Artinfo. In addition, the site is artist-driven, cutting out the traditional middleman dealers in both on and offline venues. Dot Dash 3 screens interested artists before allowing them to create a virtual show. When pieces are sold, the site takes a commission and donates a portion of that commission to fund artist residencies.

The site has important consequences for how we think about galleries. On the one hand, Dot Dash 3 democratizes the gallery by bringing it to a wider audience. Now, you don’t have to be in the same geographic location as a work to see it. Moreover, going to see work in person is a commitment. With Dot Dash 3, those with a more casual interest can view art without investing time and energy in doing so. In addition, the site shows the work of artists who don’t have dealers and would not be able to show in traditional galleries, something which could potentially bring more attention to underrepresented artists and styles of work. At the same time, the site could encounter some of the same problems that books are having in an age of self-publishing: Good art becomes a needle in a haystack; hard to find as you dig through the slush pile.

The site also impacts the way we separate artwork from galleries and paintings from wall. In traditional galleries, the space does not change. Usually the artist creates pieces first, then figures out how to display them in a gallery, which is considered a neutral. In contrast to the traditional gallery, which encourages us to think about artwork as objects on a wall or in a space, Dot Dash 3 allows the whole (virtual) space to figure into the work — an approach more akin to installation art. And yet, it is precisely this kind of art that is so poorly suited for Dot Dash 3. Installation art, by definition, requires that we move through it and that we experience the entire space. Dot Dash 3 does not allow you to experience the work bodily or texturally.

However, Artinfo argued that it might be a good “space” for experiencing digital, multi-media work. Although I agree that such works are probably better suited for virtual environments, I’m not sure they need to borrow traditional notions of physical space. Why imitate a gallery if the work is best experienced online? A more suitable space would not need to reference the gallery, but would instead take advantage of characteristics natural to the web. Although the owners claim the artists can design non-gallery spaces for their work, they continue to frame space as something physical and material.

A virtual exhibition space should be just that: A space for virtual work, not a replica of a traditional gallery space. We have enough white cubes.

Original Author: Emily Greenberg