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As galleries in New York and around the world have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have quickly shifted their focus to more in-depth presentations of art online. For some, that’s meant participating in viewing rooms and digital catalogues associated with would-be fairs.
Jane Lombard Gallery has chosen to embrace the possibility of sharing more about the work of its artists online, taking this time of physical isolation to experiment with greater engagement via social media—creating a more intimate connection between artists and art enthusiasts.
Whitewall was in touch with director Lisa Carlson to better understand the gallery’s artist-led approach to digital content.
WHITEWALL: How is the gallery responding to the closure of its physical space?
LISA CARLSON: With the physical gallery being closed, we’ve had to take a step back and think about the ways we connect with our audience, collectors, and each other. Our gallery has an international roster of artists and we’ve always prided ourselves in bringing diverse and global voices to New York. Without a physical space, we are presenting that same global perspective (which is absolutely needed right now) with a digital strategy of artist-led content on our website and social channels.
WW: Can you tell us about what’s on view now in the virtual viewing rooms?
LC: Currently, on view we have Jane Bustin’s “Colour of Words.” The artworks in this exhibition speak to mindfulness and quiet contemplation. In some ways this exhibition really compliments this period of time we are in, as our generally busy lives are forced to slow down. The inspiration for many of the works in “Colour of Words” comes from the observations Bustin had during a residency at the Mark Rothko Centre in Latvia. She took particular note of her surroundings.
Her studio, which was housed in a former fortress, had crumbling walls and sun-bleached paint. Bustin has mentioned that she saw the state of the walls and building as marking the passing of time with “histories, secrets, and buried memories within.” Bustin would lie in her bed, isolated from her friends and family, watching and observing life on the outside. As many of us are currently staying in our homes, perhaps we too will notice the history embedded within our own walls.
WW: How did you want to extend programming to social media, as well?
LC: In the past, we have often held talks connected to exhibitions in our gallery space. With the gallery going digital we will soon be opening up artist talks online for audiences across the world to join. There is a sense that we are all in this together and we want to build on that sense of connection and shared joy surrounding the arts and culture that people are finding remotely.
Our content strategy is built around giving our viewers new ways of engaging with our artists and staying connected to our beloved arts community. We will be rolling out video Q+A with our artists on a variety of topics as well as short artist created videos. We also want to feature new work artists are making in reaction to COVID-19.
WW: What kind of story telling can you do digitally, that you can’t as easily in the physical gallery?
LC: With a physical gallery, you are bound by space. So many of our artists work internationally and unless we have an exhibition of their work, our audience does not have a chance to interact with them. There has been a lot of talk about the lack of social connection right now as we hunker down in our homes. With our digital content, we hope to provide a behind the scenes look at our artists, show people a side of them they wouldn’t see at the gallery and provide insight into their practice.
There is also an innate intimacy that comes from interacting with someone over a computer or cell phone versus a Q+A at a gallery. Part of that has to do with the physical distance between what you are viewing and the fact that you are watching within your own space. We hope this relaxed setting will help people feel connected to the artists in a way they might not have at a gallery talk. We encourage people to ask questions and interact.
WW: How do you see your digital and social programming expanding?
LC: Right now is the experimental stage. We will try many different things and see what works best with our artists and our viewers. As the days progress, we settle into our lives, we will start to tell different stories.
WW: How are you seeing your artists respond to this moment?
LC: We have been checking in with all of our artists and have seen that while the world is changing, the drive to create has not. We have started to share some of it on our Instagram, starting with Romanian-based Dan Perjovschi’s new series, “The Time of the Virus.” These are quick, humorous drawings he has made.
Another gallery artist, Lucy Orta, one half of Studio Orta (collaborative artist duo with Jorge Orta), said the other day has shared their experiences in isolation in France and how their creative practice is evolving. She says, “We feel very fortunate to have a creative profession, we think out-of-the-box and find solutions to problems quickly. During confinement we will be drawing every day, reimagining the world. Drawing is an antidote to the fear and uncertainty that is propagating the world.”