As COVID-19 slowed the world to a stop in spring 2020, museums and galleries faced extreme challenges. With the world in lockdown, how could the art world cope? With unprecedented change also came unprecedented opportunity, and a catalyst to accelerate the arts integration into the digital sphere.

The pandemic has ushered in a golden age of virtual culture, offering new opportunities for unprecedented access to some of the world’s most iconic museums, galleries and contemporary artists; once only accessible to those with the means to visit. In this time where people have felt more physically isolated than ever before, the digital world has offered access to the experiences that we long have missed.

Many large institutions, like the Met, and startup galleries like Gallery Sthorm, now offer tours/online viewing rooms allowing visitors to glimpse their collections through various views and providing detailed information of each of the pieces. These digital cultural escapes have proved so popular that last year’s Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms crashed their site upon launch. 

 Creativity from Chaos: The Rise of Online Art Exhibitions

Natural Progression

The online expansion of the art gallery to the digital space is nothing new. A change in how art is sold has always played an important role in the expansion of art, from the 18th century salons of Paris to the commercial galleries of the 20th century.

Today’s expansion into the digital space offers an ever wider demographic of people access to experience the art of the physical gallery from the comfort of their home. Institutions have tackled the online exhibition space in a number of ways from virtual tours and online events to enhanced imagery and detailed documentation. This trend has continued to evolve due to the advent of NFT’s which use the Ethereum blockchain to determine ownership of art for those who make the purchase. Combine this with the cryptocurrency market rise and online art galleries have a powerful combination. As the world continues to open after lockdown, many galleries continue to run online exhibitions which complement collections in their physical galleries.

Advantages of Online

While purchasing online was the ONLY way in 2020, the pandemic has revealed that the convenience of purchasing online is here to stay. Not only are collectors able to explore galleries from around the world, all payment and shipping can be done with a click of the button, with their piece delivered right to their door. 

The ambiguity of the online gallery breaks down any borders that may lie between collectors and the art within; be they intimidating gallery assistants, elite addresses, or geographical constraints. This egalitarian approach to art is one that has appealed to both gallery owners and collectors. With more galleries than ever offering their collections in the digital space, we are excited to see how the galleries continue to change and adapt.

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