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Speak Out: Online Exhibitions

By Roger Rossi
ART TIMES August 2012

Sometimes exciting new situations come out of necessity. This Fall season both the American Artists Professional League and Audubon Artists will present their annual exhibitions online. According to both Larry Mallory, President of AAPL and Vincent Nardone, President of Audubon, they believed it was time to step forward and do their exhibitions through their websites. Last year both organizations exhibited at the Salmagundi Club as they had for many years, filling the Upper and Lower Galleries with  collections from both members and non-members. On a given Sunday during the exhibition, each hold afternoon receptions giving out many awards with an attendance of art dignitaries and enthusiasts on hand for the festivities. But this year, the facilities at Salmagundi will not be available as the club will undergo major renovations. Both organizations tried to somewhat duplicate the exhibition space elsewhere in New York City but found that rental space to be very costly and hardly existent.

Art organizations who have been presenting their exhibitions online have found them to be highly successful. The California Art Club and Oil Painters of America have been presenting online exhibitions for several years. Other organizations have been considering this venue in their future years and are most likely still in the talking stages. Most art organizations have memberships that are nationwide and extend to foreign countries. As many of their members are not able to visit their club’s exhibitions, the online shows bring them closer to the ongoing activities. The ideal situation is to install the artworks in their gallery or museum and present the artworks also online to maximize the exposure. Almost all art galleries present their inventories on their websites, listing the artists, sometimes a biography and a personal photo and images of their artwork which can be enlarged.

The Salmagundi Club uses online exhibitions for their seasonal auctions, so buyers can place advance bids and familiarize themselves with the selection of paintings, photography, and sculptures being offered. Now Salmagundi will for the first time present their Summer Potpourri Exhibition online which is open to all their members. In conversation with Charles Yoder, the Chairman of the Art Committee, he commented that once the system has been put into place, jurying the selected artwork is more efficient. A prestigious organization such as Salmagundi which exhibits continually through the year, can now have many more exhibits. Also for their annual Thumbox Exhibition, presented during the Holiday season, buyers can purchase online without visiting the club.

Oil Painters of America has been highly successful with online exhibitions according to Kathryn Beligratis, Executive Director who states that they do three assorted and one signature exhibition each year of which two are online. These are member only shows and each event receives heavy response. The online shows run for two and one half months on the OPA website and are juried by prominent artists. Their prizes are usually $3000. for the  first prize to $500.for the third prize, plus ten honorable mentions in each category. The entry fee is only $14. per  piece with no size restrictions. Ms. Beligratis quotes that online exhibitions add to the sense of belonging of a member.

Allied Artists of America, according to Tom Valenti, President, so far has not planned for any online exhibitions. Allied produces a magnificent exhibition in the Fall of each year at the National Arts Club, and also hosts a Sunday reception with crowds that barely get inside the door. But as Allied is a national organization, the showing of the exhibition online would bring an added bonus to their members. Mr. Valenti is familiar with  online exhibitions as he is a director of ACOPAL which is an exchange program between China and the United States where exhibitions are held both in New York and designated locations in China. They are created using artists from each country who are considered their master achievers.

The California Art Club headed by Peter and Elaine Adams of Pasadena, Ca. has nine chapters. They use their online exhibitions so their total membership and friends contacted by e-mail can see a complete show. In speaking with Peter Adams, the President, he believes that online exhibitions are for now and the wave of the future, which create good sales and a lot of interest. The online show promotes itself as an advertisement for visitors and potential buyers. The CAC has a special membership group titled the Collector’s Circle. For their Gold Medal Shows, they contact these special members to attend their opening night reserves and have the opportunity to purchase any of the artwork. After that night, the artwork is open for purchasing by other collectors.     

Other organizations such as Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club and the Pastel Society of America have had infrequent talks on the subject, but both of these Clubs produce outstanding exhibitions and have loyal memberships. In conversation with Gaile Snow Gibbs, the president of CLW, she believes that the venue will be viable down the road, and is definitely in the future as an additional venue. In speaking with Rae Smith, the President and Chair of the Pastel Society of America, she agrees that they also are considering exhibiting  online in the future. Interestingly enough, Maggie Price, the President of the International Association of Pastel Societies gave information that their club has been producing juried exhibition through the internet for four to five years which is a great advantage to their overseas members who can enter the events and do not have to ship paintings. Also, Maggie spoke of a Master Class honorary group who attain the status through a point system of being accepted to show their work. John Patt, the  Director of the American Watercolor Society quoted that their organization has been considering an online exhibition in addition to their annual exhibit in the Spring of the year at the Salmagundi Club. However the Miami Watercolor Society is already into the Second Online Competition at the Audrey Love Gallery at the Bakehouse Art Complex.

Art clubs use various venues to keep in touch with their members club activities. They use elaborately designed websites, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and online newsletters. The Salmagundi Club has created a highly successful newsletter called the Salmagundian which features categories as news items, letters, and member spotlights. All of these vehicles are important as artists continually decide whether their annual dues are beneficial to their careers. To help the artist be recognized, the online exhibitions should list the name of the artist, an image of the entry which can be enlarged, a link to their website and a contact e-mail listing. To create a stronger reason for an artist to enter an online exhibition, it is suggested that the exhibition connect to prominent galleries who  feature similarities such as contemporary realism, abstract, or photography. Also, art organizations can measure the amount of response by adding a monitor to record the number of “hits” on any given time period. And remember, an online exhibit is usually accessible up to three months and can be viewed worldwide.

Artists save expenditures when submitting to an online exhibition as they do not incur any shipping charges or the need for a personal delivery. Their work is not limited by size and sculptures do not have a weight problem, plus the artist does not have to purchase expensive frames. They should always receive the full benefits of an installed exhibition such as awards and a catalog, but usually there is no opening reception except when the installed exhibit runs concurrently with the online version.

Interesting enough, the Saatchi Art Gallery, which has an excellent reputation for exhibiting and selling has for six years produced digital exhibitions and is beginning to promote its platform for up-and-coming artists. Log onto saatchionline.com and see their exhibition “100 Curators, 100 days” where a hundred curators from around the world each chose ten artists to showcase on the site. As webmasters are looking to design new and exciting formats to present the collections online, this presentation is certainly one to be considered.
As you can see there are major savings to the organization producing online exhibitions such as fees for the rental space, the cost of a reception and that the number of entrants can be much more than a hung exhibition. So with all these aspects under consideration, it looks like both Audubon Artists and the American Artists Professional League definitely did their homework.

(Roger Rossi, painter of gardens and floral landscapes, lives in Forest Hills, NY. www.paintings byrogerrossi.com)