Post-pandemic art: Art Basel goes online with over 4,000 artworks
Updated 22:42, 23-Jun-2020
Shen Li

It's a familiar story by now. The pandemic has almost completely shut down the art world. For artists and institutions alike, the devastating impact has forced them to turn to the digital sphere. 

We hear from the curator and artists from Magician Space, who are participating in this year's Art Basel Online Viewing Room, to get some insights on the art scene post pandemic.

Following the cancellation of Art Basel this year, the fair decided to have Online Viewing Rooms instead.

A premier modern and contemporary art fair, its 50th edition will showcase a comprehensive selection of works by international galleries from 35 countries.

Accompanied by new digital features, engaging virtual events and specialized viewing room categories, the platform aims to mirror the experience of visiting the fair in person.

Among the participating galleries is Beijing-based Magician Space.

Screenshot from Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms.

Screenshot from Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms.

It's bringing an extensive selection of over 15 contemporary works by three young Chinese artists.

"We keep participating in Art Basel Hongkong, Art Basel Basel, Art Basel Miami in the last few years. For this edition of Art Basel Online Viewing Room we've chosen three emerging Chinese artists, namely Wu Chen, Guo Cheng and Liu Yefu. Their works focus different mediums (painting, sculpture and video art), with different individual practices and all with strong visual impact," Leo Li Chen, Director of Research at Magician Space told CGTN.

Artist Guo Cheng, who's taken sculpture, explained his approach. 

"Most of my works are closely linked with technologies, not just the application of the technology but also analyzing it and combining it with human behavior and our way of thinking. Technologies are an integral part of our society, and I hope my interpretation can inspire more discussion and thoughts."

Artist Wu Chen, with five paintings featured at Art Basel Online Viewing Room said: "My focus is on art history, I study the past and compare it to the present. Art history is like a dictionary or a secret code to a hidden treasure."

Screenshot from Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms.

Screenshot from Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms.

"I hope the audience can see my work in the same way as they watch director-actor Stephen Chow's slapstick comedy. In his films, there are certain quirky elements, and the scenes don't follow the conventional linear progression, the storytelling might be intertwined and the audience would have to discover themselves."

The launch of Art Basel's Online Viewing Rooms follows the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong in March.

According to Adeline Ooi, Director Asia of Art Basel, its first online edition welcomed more than 250,000 visitors worldwide, receiving positive feedback on the diversity of works displayed and unprecedented price transparency.

In an email interview with CGTN she revealed that "according to the latest Art Market Report 2020 published by Art Basel and UBS, 57 percent of online sales made by dealers were to new buyers who had never been to their galleries or met the dealer in person. Furthermore, millennial collectors were the most regular users of online channels. We believe that online platform will continue to play a huge role to collectors and the public as a means of accessing art."

However, virtual exhibitions have its limitations when it comes to admiring art.

Beijing-based Magician Space featured in Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms. /Screenshot via Art Basel

Beijing-based Magician Space featured in Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms. /Screenshot via Art Basel

Many still think of the digital space as an additional platform and not as a replacement for the physical gallery.

Artist Liu Yefu, who's bringing two video art works to Art Basel said: "Browsing through the exhibits online is nothing like seeing the artworks in person. It's like watching a football game or a live concert, there's a sense of being there, the crowd has a certain energy and you can only get that experience on site."

And artist Guo Cheng agreed, saying "the online model really provides a whole new experience whether from a PC or mobile phones. However some just simply put the physical exhibition into a 3D model, without any rearrangement in mind, it's just a copy-paste process. But I'm confident that with new technologies, artists and curators will come up with more integrated online exhibitions."

The Online Viewing Rooms will run until June the 26 on Art Basel's website and app.

In the past, the whole point of art fairs was to gather people from all over the world in one place to see and trade in works.

However, in the post-pandemic world, that goal and way of operating may be changed forever.