If you’re an art lover, answer this: how often do you go to a gallery? Pretty regularly? Now, let’s rephrase that and ask, how often do you visit an online gallery? You know, a website or platform that showcases art online for you to view, and buy, at your pleasure? Chances are probably not as much, even though to do so requires a lot less effort than putting your coat on and trudging out the house to see an exhibition.
But online art galleries are out there in cyberspace, with new platforms launching all the time. The latest is a new virtual gallery Dot Dash 3 (that’s Morse code for “art”) that bills itself as a “cutting-edge digital platform for exhibiting, experiencing, and acquiring art online”. Many virtual galleries have come and gone, some launched by big art galleries, other by smaller startups—so what does this one do differently? And will it attract the art lovers/buyers attention and get them to part with their time and/or money?
One of the key principles with Dot Dash 3 is that artists and curators can create their own bespoke environment for viewers to explore and view the art in. Currently the spaces are mostly white cubes, but if the artists wanted to be more imaginative, creating environments that reflect their aesthetic, it could make for an unusual and fun experience. “The platform is highly configurable and allows the content creator (artist or curator) to dictate the layout, how the space is seen by a visitor, and all supporting multimedia information.” says founder Larisa Leventon. “A lot of virtual applications of galleries and museums have been created as a way to document what exists in physical space. This platform enables the opposite to happen: it facilitates creation of an exhibition that has not ever existed and which may not even be possible to stage in physical reality; it allows ideas to be born out of the artist’s or curator’s imagination and their artistic practice to reach new heights.”
View of My Best Friend, Andrea Bianconi
The exhibitions can be navigated in a similar way to how you do in Google’s Street View or a video game, dragging on the mousepad and clicking on doorways when you want to advance. So you wander around and then when you see something you like, click on it to get more information. Then if you want to buy it, you simply click the purchase button. Leventon sees it as a way to put people in direct contact with up and coming artists and their work, calling the site “artist-centric” and focusing on mid-career artists and emerging artists in a price range that goes from $250 to $25,000.
As well as a business model that simplifies the buying process and cuts out unnecessary middle people, Leventon believes the interface will help people to engage more with the art too. It’s not just rows of images, but an entire gallery experience stripped back to its essentials so it’s not too overwhelming. This not only makes it simpler to navigate but also means your computer (or tablet) doesn’t groan under the strain and give up while trying to process it all. And while the interface is minimal it still allows for audio and video (and GIFs) “to give a very personalized contextual and background information about the exhibition of works on display.”
So, while it presents a way for artists to customize how their work’s presented and engage directly with their audience, the question still remains of whether people want to experience exhibitions online the way they do offline. Will virtual galleries ever have the same appeal for art lovers as the real thing? “I think it is logistically difficult, if not impossible, for any one person to see all exhibitions he/she is interested in seeing in physical space, just like it is not possible to see everyone we interact with in person.” Leventon says. “Technology enables us to use our time more efficiently. It doesn’t necessarily substitute an interaction in a physical space, but it enables a different kind of experience that is meaningful in its own right. Art lovers already experience art through books, shared phone snapshots, etc. Virtual galleries supplemented with multimedia elements allow us to experience art even more meaningfully. In time, some art may be more naturally experienced in the virtual gallery environment—animated GIF, for example or video.”