Frieze introduces digital initiative ‘Frieze Viewing Room’

The new platform will launch with an online edition of Frieze New York

Words by Millen Brown-Ewens

This Friday, Frieze New York will open its now metaphorical doors to the public as the annual art and design fair moves online.

Scheduled to be hosted at Randall’s Island Park this May, media and events company, Frieze, has been forced to cancel its physical events due to the Covid-19 crisis, rethinking the articulation of its New York fair to function in a digital landscape.

The mobile app and web-based platform, which will be live from May 8 - 15, will present major works by established and emerging artists from over 200 galleries, utilising AR technology to offer users the ability to virtually view artwork.

Museumgoers and art collectors who register online, will be able to browse through regular gallery sections; Spotlight, Frame, Focus and Main as well as featured collections such as Diálogos exploring Latin American, Latino and LatinX artists and Chicago Tribute, paying homage to the pioneering women artists of Chicago.

Global Director of Frieze fairs, Victoria Siddall, reflects on the unprecedented circumstances of this initiative and their fortuitous benefits of reimagining the event space online.

“It’s been great that we have been able to celebrate and support the nearly 200 galleries that would have been with us for Frieze New York and the artists they represent via this new online platform,” says Siddall.

She continues: “We were in the fortunate position of having started work on the development of this online platform last year. Luckily, when Frieze New York was cancelled, we were able to ramp up the development of this project to meet the needs of hosting an entire art fair online.”

Fundamentally, Frieze Viewing Room was conceived as a means of support for the galleries exhibiting in its fairs. Now, as the arts bear the brunt of Covid-19’s financial implications, it’s innovative program is needed more than ever.

“We have always thought about using an online or digital platform like this as a compliment to the fairs themselves but not as a replacement,” comments director of Frieze New York, Loring Randolph.

“While the platform can in no way replace the experience of us all coming together under one roof and experiencing art in person, I do hope that by moving the fair online, we can provide a digital platform that is engaging, that supports galleries and that’s providing access and information that’s useful for an interested audience.”

Image courtesy of Frieze

The Viewing Room web and mobile platforms are free to use for both galleries and viewers, a decision Siddall hopes will encourage more engagement with the arts in this period of uncertainty.

“I think it’s extraordinary to see how some people, who maybe didn’t realise how much they valued art and culture, now in quarantine realise what an incredible lifeline it is at a time like this,” says Siddall.

Randolph and the team at Frieze New York have worked exceedingly hard to present an innovative model which responds to the needs of its galleries and collectors, including features which aim to make the process of buying and viewing art an enjoyable and interactive experience.

Using the 3D function available on the mobile app, users can even superimpose two-dimensional wall-based artwork onto the walls of their own homes. And, in an effort to “bring a bit of humanity into the digital realm,” as Randolph suggests, the gallery pages have also included a ‘Sign the book; feature so that galleries are aware of who has visited and appreciated their rooms.

Director and Chief Curator of DePaul Art Museum, Julie Rodrigues Widholm reflects on the silver lining that Frieze Viewing Room has provided for artists and galleries.

“I am very pleased by how the Frieze team is shifting gears to ensure an audience for the artists, galleries and special curated sections that have been working toward the fair in May,” says Widholm.

“I see this as an opportunity to find innovative digital technologies that allow us to engage with work in way that we haven’t before. Perhaps we will come up with a new paradigm that connects us to process, the artist, and the artwork in a meaningful way.”

Widholm is the curator of the Chicago Tribute sector of this year’s fair. A space which places emphasis on the works of female artists from Chicago, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of women’s right to vote in the U.S.

“In acknowledgment of the ongoing lack of equity in the art market, exhibitions, and museum collections, it is an honour to showcase a small slice of Chicago’s contribution to the global art conversation and to shine a light on these phenomenal artists. In a city of activists such as Jane Addams and Ida B. Wells, and feminist collectives such as Artemisia, ARC and Sapphires and Crystals, this special section pays tribute to our women artists.”

After the fair, Frieze Viewing Room will be taken down so that further developments considering feedback can be made.

Click here to register to view the Frieze New York 2020 edition.

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