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Who Needs Art Basel Miami? Pajama Purchasing at the “VIP” Virtual Art Fair

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My fifth annual Art Basel Miami sour grapes soufflé

I don’t know about you, but I find that my experience of artwork online is nothing like my experience of artwork on site. There have been many, many times when I thought that a piece looked very intriguing on my desktop, only to be greatly disappointed by an encounter with the real thing. Brightly backlit pieces on my computer monitor often fall flat when lit from the other side. The converse has also proven true: What digital image can possibly do justice to a masterpiece?

So in this, my fifth annual Art Basel Miami sour grapes soufflé (I’m not going again!), I hereby declare that while I’m no fan of the bewildering artistic agglomerations that overload the eyes at mega-fairs, I’m even less enamored of collecting-by-clicking. It’s fine to preview works online or to bid at online auctions after first viewing the actual objects at a presale exhibition. It may even be fine to buy a work online that is a multiple with which you’re already very familiar (provided that you can get a complete and reliable condition report).

But while I can see the clear advantages for dealers in broadening their client base, I don’t believe that intelligent collectors will be well served by the upcoming VIP Art Fair, Jan. 22-30, which has just announced its very prestigious, international 139-gallery roster.

Lest its name beguile you into believing that you’ll be granted privileged treatment by Gagosian (one of the fair’s founding galleries) in his online guise, be advised that “VIP,” in this case, doesn’t connote access to a dealer’s choicest holdings. It’s meant to be an acronym for “Viewing in Private” (or perhaps “Vetting in Pajamas”).

Some private experiences just can’t be satisfactorily digitized. Lovemaking and the delectation of an original art object are two of them.

an ArtsJournal blog