Virtual Exibitions

July 24, 2020

Why is it just as important to be thoughtful developing an online exhibition as it is to contemplate and arrange a physical exhibition?

Although it may not always be apparent to a viewer, much thought goes into arranging a physical art exhibition.  We consider where a viewer enters the space and what we want them to see first.  We think about whether we want them to move in a certain direction.  And we consider what is seen from a variety of vantage points in the space  – ideally, each vantage point shows different groups or pairings of artworks in a satisfying way.

Now that “virtual” exhibitions that exist mainly online are becoming more commonplace, how do we think about that experience for the viewer?  At JNG, we now have on-line exhibitions for two of our artists as we continue to deal with the impacts of this pandemic.  Tara Austin’s exhibit Boreal Ornament III was scheduled to open March 27 with an artist talk on May 2 – neither of those events occurred.  After June 1, we were able to be open by appointment since the physical exhibition was already installed, but there could be no public events.  Instead, we built a virtual exhibit online where her paintings could be seen interactively.  And instead of an artist talk, we provided audio statements by Tara associated with each painting that can be listened to while viewing each one.  So, in a sense, Tara is there with the viewer talking about her paintings.

For Jim Woodfill’s Code Practice exhibition planned to open June 26, it was not advisable to travel to pick up the work, nor appropriate to have any public events.  Instead, the artist decided to “animate” his work by creating unique digital animations of paired pieces each with a unique sound track that he developed.  In effect, this created a new sub-body of work the artist titled Certain Objects and Certain Systems.  With this new work, an interactive website was created where the viewer is allowed to choose their own combination of animation / sound pieces to pair together.  So instead of a viewer standing in a particular place in the physical gallery for their optimum viewing experience, we gave them a related opportunity online.  Code Practice: Certain Objects and Certain Systems “opened” on July 24 at 9 am.

You might ask why have an online opening at a specific day and time.  We find that even with online events, there is an anticipation that is built when one has to wait, similar to getting ready to attend an art opening and knowing it is at an appointed time.  For those that want to have this feeling and actually wait to log-in, we suggest that option.

By the way, I have been thinking about the use of the term “virtual” ever since we have all had to change our approach to attendance events due to COVID.  Is “virtual” the correct way to describe an art exhibition that mostly exists only online?  I came across this definition:

“virtual” – not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to (be) so

So my conclusion is YES, for an online art exhibition, virtual is appropriate terminology.

~ Joseph Nease

Joseph Nease Gallery is currently open by appointment only. Our hours are Thursday through Saturday, 12 to 4 pm. Appointments can be made by calling the gallery or by emailing our Gallery Manager Amanda Hunter at manager@josephneasegallery.com. All visitors are to wear masks, and we will be routinely disinfecting common surfaces within the gallery space.

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