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As the coronavirus pandemic proceeds to close and delay practically every event in the art world, it is pushing fairs, galleries, institutions and artists alike to creatively explore the ever-expanding terrain of online representation. From Art Basel Hong Kong’s digital viewing rooms to live-streamed gallery tours and Instagram fundraising initiatives, it looks like the near future is set to herald an abundance of cyberspace endeavours. Alongside the comfort of exploring exhibits while dressed in pyjamas, there are added conveniences offered in the digital realm, such as the ability to replace works as they’re sold, or even execute an entire rehang with relative immediacy.

A forerunner in innovating and embracing these technologies, Google Arts and Culture’s website offers online access to some 500 cultural organisations, from international museums to historic sites. The virtual platform, which launched in 2016, hosts a number of the most respected institutions across the globe, sharing works from the likes of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the British Museum in London, and the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. In NYC, gain virtual access to the Met, the MoMA, the Frick Collection, and the Guggenheim, to name a few. Users can also go back in time, rediscovering 2015’s Venice Biennale and other exhibitions that are no longer on view.

For some commercial galleries, this challenging time is proving to be an opportunity to test a strategy they have been building for several years. Pioneers of the online viewing room, David Zwirner presented its inaugural virtual exhibition in 2017, and now has one of the most refined user experiences in the industry, providing a unified platform boasting essays, books, products and its in-house podcast dubbed Dialogues, to educate users on the works exhibited. Today, while other prevalent galleries focus on forming similar digital models amid the current climate, Zwirner’s farsighted approach has proven him to be a progressive gallerist.

Others are exploring the channel as a way to broach social and mental health matters exasperated by the health crisis. Art Dubai, which cancelled its March fair last month, has since reimagined its performance programme to address the topic of healing as an online art form. Launching 23 March 2020, On(line) will comprise contributions by performance artists such as Bahar Noorizadeh and Tiago Sant’Ana, and aims to establish a space where unexpected relationships can give way for a collective therapy to exist. Elsewhere, Dubai galleries, such as Green Art Gallery and The Third Line, have joined forces with Alserkal Avenue to create 3D walkthroughs of their upcoming presentations.

Feature image: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea (via Google Arts and Culture)

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