Gallery reinvents itself with virtual exhibitions, artist livestreams

The gallery held its first online auction in April, raising $60,600 for low-income households affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. PHOTO: ODE TO ART/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - From a studio tour by Miami-based German sculptor Rainer Lagemann to a virtual exhibition hosted by Chinese artist Wu Qiong, house-bound art lovers have been getting an inside look at the creative process thanks to an initiative by local art gallery Ode to Art.

The weekly Facebook Live sessions are among the ways the firm has been engaging customers since its gallery at Raffles City Shopping Centre shut in April.

It has also been ramping up online sales through a digital concierge service that provides personal consultations to collectors using tools such as Zoom.

While nothing beats viewing artwork in person, "at least we have some momentum going instead of not doing anything - and it's helping both the artists and the gallery", said Ode to Art's director, Ms Jazz Chong.

The gallery held its first online auction in April, raising $60,600 for low-income households affected by the Covid-19 outbreak through the sale of 22 donated works of art. All proceeds went to the Methodist Welfare Services.

"There are always people less lucky than us... We weren't confident that people would want to donate when times are bad, but we were overwhelmed," said Ms Chong.

Ode to Art will also launch a series of virtual exhibitions from August, starting with the works of local artists, in celebration of Singapore's National Day.

It is a format the gallery plans to continue with even after its exhibition space reopens.

"It's a new way of presenting. I think the virtual gallery is an essential thing because more and more people will be shopping online," said Ms Chong.

"We really have to see how we can give the artists more exposure; I think that's the role of the gallery," she added.

Museums around the world have been offering virtual tours during the pandemic, while theatre companies here have also put shows online as they await being able to perform to live audiences.

Ms Chong noted that while art dealing is an age-old business, sellers must adapt to the changing preferences of younger collectors, particularly when it comes to communication channels.

The current crisis has hurt business, but also provided an opportunity for Ode to Art to reinvent itself, she said. "I think we just have to move with the times. We can't be doing things as they've been done for 10 or 100 years."

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