All over the world, galleries and auction houses are reconfiguring their businesses to fit the new standard operating conditions created by the coronavirus outbreak. At the end of March, mega-gallery David Zwirner announced the launch of a new online resource called Platform, a viewing room hosted on Zwirner’s website that features a selection of artworks for sale from smaller galleries in the vicinity of Zwirner’s locations in major cities. On Tuesday, Sotheby’s similarly announced the launch of a new initiative called Sotheby’s Gallery Network, which is an online marketplace that features a selection of bespoke digital viewing rooms created for a roster of galleries that includes Kasmin Gallery, Sperone Westwater and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.
Artworks priced up to $150,000 can be purchased instantaneously via the Gallery Network platform, and offerings priced upwards of that sum can be enquired about by collectors confined to their homes. Viewing rooms will also be updated each week to ensure that shoppers are made aware of new offerings from their favorite galleries. The initial works up for sale are strong: Luhring Augustine gallery is leading with a beautiful black-and-white photograph from Larry Clark’s Tulsa series, and Kasmin is offering a striking Warhol work entitled Mrs. Vardinoyannis, 1983–84.
“Sotheby’s has made a point of investing significantly in our proprietary digital tools over the past several years, and this network provides an opportunity to extend that investment to support the larger art market during this time,” Saara Pritchard, the senior specialist of Contemporary Art for Sotheby’s, said in a statement. “By uniting our different strengths, we believe this type of cooperative arrangement can be a model for success not only during the short-term, but also as a long-term reciprocal project to support all levels of the market.”
Since Sotheby’s auction houses around the world have been shuttered indefinitely due to the coronavirus, digital initiatives like these are sure to be crucial to the institution’s revenue stream in the forthcoming months. However, since fresh evidence also points to the fact that impulse shopping is as alive and well as ever during the pandemic, there’s little doubt that auction organizations will ultimately survive.