As it often happens to me, I was late at the VIP Art Fair; and, of course, I forgot the closing time. Yesterday night I thought: «Ok, let’s leave now – I will check some few details tomorrow morning.» I forgot what the organizers said somewhere in their massive pr campaign: «it’s not a website; it is an event.» And this morning I was welcome by a sad message: «Welcome, Domenico Quaranta. Thank you for visiting VIP Art Fair. The 2011 fair has closed. See you again next year.» Too bad.
Actually, I didn’t have so many expectations. And no expectations also means no disappointment. Using the internet as a marketplace is not a new idea. And the fact that we had to wait 2011 to see an online art fair is, to me, just a proof of how much conservative the contemporary art world is. An online art fair would have been a surprise ten years ago. Today, it’s just a puer senex – just born, already obsolete. Today, a Facebook page can provide any of its users with much more than what the VIP Art Fair provided to sellers, collectors and the broader audience. And it never crashes, as Mark Zuckerberg says in The Social Network, and as VIP eventually did.
But I feel confortable with obsolete event formats, so I enjoyed the fair. After snapping into some blue chip galleries booths, I found out the “medium filter”, and I started playing around with it. After realizing that the “mixed media” category is now used to describe almost anything that is not an oil painting, a single channel video or a photo, I switched to the “multimedia” category. Funny, I’d have said that nobody was using that term since “From Wagner to Virtual Reality” (2000), but I was wrong. The category featured 5 artworks out of the 1018 on show at the fair: two Tony Oursler, an installation by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, a Mark Bradford and a Cory Arcangel. It was not strictly required, but I thought it would have been nice if the first online art fair was going to put on sale at least one piece of Internet based art. Too daring?
The Cory Arcangel (presented by Lisson Gallery) was his bowling game piece for Playstation, documented on the website with a static picture. No video documentation available. This absence made me think about video. If an online art fair as an advantage upon its offline counterparts, it’s that it can finally provide a wonderful platform for videos. Thanks God, you can now take your time, watch videos from the beginning to the end comfortably sitting down on your sofa, come back whenever you want, etc. Brilliant! Be sure, galleries have understood this, and put on show on the virtual walls of the VIP Art Fair the best videos they have for sale. Let’s check the video category!
The video category featured around 30 works (out of 1018). I must admit: this was disappointing. A few of them were video installations. Some galleries decided to provide just a picture of them – for example, Victoria Miro Gallery was selling a Doug Aitken piece providing just a jpg file. Others provided some video documentation. Most single channel videos were uploaded in full length. Just a couple of galleries chose to upload shorter excerpts, instead of the whole thing: for example, Marian Goodman Gallery uploaded a 2 minutes excerpt of Annemiek (I wanna be with you), a 4 minutes video by Rineke Dijkstra. Hauser & Wirth was the only one putting a watermark (“For preview only”) on a video (Kayak, Rheintal, 2000 by Roman Signer), displayed in full length. And Lia Rumma decided to sell Marzia Migliora’s Forever Overhead (2010) documenting it with a jpg. Funny choice, for an artist who made a performance called Download-Now (2004 – 2005).
However, I can understand Lia Rumma’s concerns. When, while watching a video, I saw my Flash Video Downloader icon blink, I used it. And in about an hour I downloaded on my desktop most of the videos on sale. Now, I have on my computer a collection of 2,71 GB of videos stolen at the VIP Art Fair. How many, among the fair’s thousands of visitors, did the same? If you didn’t, please let me share with you one of my pieces: Horse Riding Horse, After Muybridge, 2007, by the Korean artist Beom Kim, bought at Gallery Hyundai for 0 dollars. Feel free to download it if you like.
Sure, our collection have no economic value, and probably most of the videos are not at the proper resolution, but who cares? Maybe finally, 12 years after Napster, the art market is going to face the problem of free distribution of cultural content. Will our little crime slow down the process? I don’t think so. After all, that’s what happens when you can View (art) In Private.