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Art Basel’s new Online Viewing Rooms are open through March 25, giving digital visitors a couple more days to peruse and purchase work from 235 international galleries. The new platform supports dealers that were originally supposed to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong, cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitewall checked in with Shasha Tittmann, Director of Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong, to learn more about what the gallery is presenting, as well as discuss plans for a virtual future.
WHITEWALL: What is Lehmann Maupin presenting in Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms?
SHASHA TITTMANN: Lehmann Maupin’s presentation showcases a select group of contemporary international artists working in new media, sculpture and painting—Nari Ward, Lari Pittman, Shirazeh Houshiary, Erwin Wurm, Do Ho Suh, Tony Oursler, and Lee Bul. Each artist utilizes their singular visual style to interpret, destabilize, or investigate contemporary society, and employs a complex system of signs, symbols, and gestures to convey the personal, social, and political content layered throughout their work. Together, the works present a comprehensive view of art-making today and are representative of our gallery’s voice. Recurring questions we return to are: how our artists merge cultural influences, personal experiences, and global concerns to provide a critical understanding and representation of the present?
WW: Are any of the works new or never been seen before?
ST: It was important for us when participating in this first online presentation, that most works were created in the past year and shown to the public for the first time, alongside a few significant, historic works.
WW: What’s different in the Online Viewing Room?
ST: First, for any visitor it allows you to browse and view at your own pace over a longer period of time, without the distraction of the crowds and rush you would see at a traditional fair. Second, it’s also interesting to see the transparency with prices and price ranges, and focus on one artwork at a time. Curatorial and installation is not possible in the online viewing room, and the limit of 10 works per gallery viewing room is very different experience to what you might see at Art Basel Hong Kong. Lastly, it is also bringing new audiences who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to visit.
WW: Can you tell us about what we can expect from Lehmann Maupin’s own online viewing rooms, which will debut soon, alongside the upcoming exhibition “Power Wall”?
ST: In anticipation of our upcoming show “Power Wall” with Robin Rhode and Nari Ward opening April 3 in Hong Kong, we will debut Lehmann Maupin’s new online viewing room next week. Hong Kong has faced a challenging few months—our priorities shifted a while ago to look at how we can reach a broader audience online. Recent events accelerated the decision to digitize the experience of our exhibitions. The technology is there and this is the direction the future of art business is quickly moving into.
“Power Wall” is the first presentation of Nari Ward in Hong Kong, highlighting the ways both Rhode and Ward uniquely engage with the wall through an accumulation of marks that produce large-scale drawings steeped in socio-political subtext. The overall virtual experience is enhanced by the documentation of the physical exhibition, where audiences can browse through high-resolution images of works and installation views, as well as archival information about the artists and their past projects. For example, the wall-mounted works of Ward are three-dimensional, almost sculptural; the digital presentation gives the audience an opportunity to explore the works from all perspectives. At the same time, they can see his larger body of work in just a few clicks, providing context, depth and history to the new works.
WW: How do you see Lehmann Maupin’s digital platform and programming growing?
ST: Currently, we are developing virtual reality walk-throughs of the exhibitions, which will launch soon. We are also constantly improving and expanding our digital programming and platforms based on the feedback from our audience and the developments in technology. Whilst the visceral experience of physical exhibitions will be irreplaceable—there is great potential to build complementary digital experiences. The success of online platforms also depends on the conversations we create around them—that means to use of social media and other available channels to engage with our audiences in new ways.
WW: What kind of feedback have you received thus far from the Online Viewing Room model?
ST: Yes. Though we do not have the actual figures about how many people have interacted with our Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Room—there is a lot of activity from new and existing collectors and we have heard their feedback. As more galleries and museums are closed, with travel limited in the foreseeable future, there will be an appetite and audience for online viewing. I do see collectors adapting their viewing and buying behavior in the art business.