Online or die? Reflection on Gallery Weekend KL’s Luminary: Curating and Collecting- Ways of Seeing
By Danial bin Fuad

Connectivity is vital in today’s fast-paced world where the internet facilitates an instant connection to everyone. With the advancement to 5G coming soon, it is best to say that the internet has become a need rather than a want. Being online is more important than ever. This also holds true in the art world as seen in Curating and Collecting - Ways of Seeing, part of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur’s (GWKL) Luminary Program.

The webinar discussed how different organisations have adapted to the pandemic by changing how they do things. The speakers were Edward Gibbs, Chairman and Head of Department, Middle East and India for London Sotheby's, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Senior Curator, National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, together with Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN, Jakarta. The session was moderated by Ernesto Pujazon. This webinar also marked GWKL’s first online session. What made it even more interesting was the way it highlighted how the internet has made it easier for so many individuals from all around the globe to gather with just a touch of the button, which served the topic well.

Although the pandemic has had a devastating economic impact, Gibb’s presentation showed that the opposite was true for the art world. Sotheby’s switch to live-stream international online auctions has proven to be a successful business model. From January to October 2020, the auction house held 12 live-steam marquee auctions yielding a 92% average sale rate and an aggregated USD 1.1 billion in sales. Further cementing the internet’s vital role in the future of the art world, 80% of their sales for this year were done online, with record-breaking deals taking place, such as the USD15.2 million sale of the Basquiat piece “Untitled (Head)” .

Mustafa of the National Gallery of Singapore spoke about the Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago exhibition, which opened the day before the country went on its nationwide Circuit Breaker lockdown. To overcome this obstacle, the gallery organised an online symposium Dan kau merantau lagi / And you wander once again which included film screenings, talks and even performances. The gallery also presented a reading of Latiff Mohidin’s poetry via Skype, entitled Poems of the Deep Night // Sajak-sajak Tengah Malam. The online sessions managed to garner huge audiences and this just proves how the internet has increased accessibility to a wider audience, as opposed to the limited reach of a live gallery setting.

The Museum of MACAN took on the new normal through its “Museum from Home” where people can visit their website for virtual exhibitions, audio tours, workshops, and even access downloadable art activities with artists. Again, the narrative of accessibility to bigger audiences via the internet is shown here. Since the start of the program, the museum webpage has garnered more than 100,000 views and their Instagram account has achieved 2.5 million impressions and a reach of 14 million . Very good figures indeed for a program that took off in April.

Overall, we can see how adopting the online approach is important for galleries, especially during this troubling time. The webinar showcased three successful case studies in using the internet to reach a wider audience; numbers that might not even be achievable otherwise.

GWKL webinars such as this and many others can be viewed at their website

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Danial Fuad is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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