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5 Reasons Why Hybrid is the Future of Art Fairs

Less than a decade ago, the art world was insular, exclusive to a few high end clientele, and suspicious of digital. However, in a strange twist, Art Fairs are proving to be the early adopters of digital event innovation.

We’ve been seeing some really strong trends for hybrid since speaking to Art Fairs. Sometimes hybrid is misinterpreted as a tone-deaf attempt at replacing the physical experience.

That’s not the case.

The way we see it, the real world will always be the dominant experience.

The new hybrid is a digital layer that complements the real world, versus a “replacement” which was just a forced solution during the lockdown era.

According to Walter Gehlen Director of Art Dusseldorf, “The Art world has finally warmed up to digital innovation and thinking beyond viewing rooms”.

We just partnered with Art Dusseldorf to provide a digital layer — which will convert the April 2022 edition into a true hybrid experience.

We’re not talking about a 3D virtual art fair and lame walkthroughs that simply mimic real-world experiences.

So what can digital add to the Art Fair Experience?

1. Be at Two Fairs at the Same Time

For most collectors, seeing something in person — be it at an art fair, a gallery, or an auction preview — is a fun and important part of the buying experience.

“Sometimes art collectors won’t be able to make the trip because of time constraints, travel restrictions or conflicting art fair dates"

-says Walter

Remote clienteling can close the gap between online and offline viewing experiences. By having someone on the ground and combining the logistical elements — calenders, appointments, video chat and consulting — remote clienteling provides art buyers with a buy-from-home experience while retaining the richness of personal interaction.

This is already in play with retail.

Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann, home to the most desirable fashion brands in the world, has made their personal shoppers available, by appointment, on live video, to assist shoppers with putting together a wardrobe that reflects the desired style with personalized advice.

Achieving the famous, effortless Parisian style remotely.

What this means is, if Expo Chicago falls on the same date as Art Dusseldorf, which incidentally is the case, Art Show Collectors won’t miss out and can indulge in Art from their home office.

2. Tap Into A New Younger Audience

Until now, the art world appealed to older, richer collectors. It can be intimidating or at times even confusing to a young audience. Art Fairs provide an opportunity for artists to exhibit their work to a wider audience in a more curated setting and prices they can afford.

“Even in India, which is new to Art Fairs, the average is falling to 35 with some people as low as 25”

-says Lajja Shah, curator of Art Fairs in Mumbai.

The young buyers are the digital naturals and art fairs have evolved to accommodate their lifestyles.

Art Dubai uses an app that allows visitors to explore the galleries before they even arrive on-site; this way they can make informed choices about which galleries they want to visit in person. Additionally, some art fairs use virtual reality to give people a more immersive experience of artwork- for example, you can “walk” through a virtual art exhibit at Art Cologne.

3. Easily Embrace New Technology

Both Frieze and Art Basel introduced digital components in 2021.

Art Basel uses NFC technology (Near Field Communication) that allows you to access exclusive videos and images through special tags embedded in works on display; this creates a deeper connection between artist and audience as well as information about your favorite pieces or exhibitions later when reviewing coverage online after the Art Basel show.

Today digital is a no-brainer. You don’t have to convince a gallery that they need a digital component at an art fair. It’s table stakes”

-says Tony Karman of Expo Chicago.

In order to appeal to a new generation of collectors, Art Fairs are starting to use cryptocurrencies as a way of supporting the art ecosystem.

Art Fairs are able to offer unique opportunities for artists who use cryptocurrencies in their work.

For example, in March 2018, Art Fair Tokyo created an entirely new category called “Art & Blockchain” within the art fair. The fair started accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum as payment for artwork. It allowed more transparency around all digital transactions between artist and buyer (and Art Fair Tokyo). And made artwork accessible to people who may not have traditional forms of currency (or even bank accounts) to purchase artwork.

It also helps reduce fraudulent activity around purchasing artwork because blockchain can be used to track transactions safely and securely.

4. Gain Trend Insights at Lower Price Points

Today the trends on artists skewed towards established or dead artists.

Masterworks, for example, reviews the entire database from Christie's to plot growth trends for various artworks. This database contains over 60,000 data points from over 70 years of art sales. This data is proprietary although some of it is publicly available. (Now, however, Christie’s is saying that public access to the archives is no longer possible)

However, lower-end pieces and emerging artists are harder to track.

With Art Fairs creating a convenience of buying and selling without any time of commission involved, art fairs can make more of this data available. This is great news for artists making their growth trajectory more transparent through actual sales numbers.

In addition to intuition, galleries can also get a better read on collector trends through real data.

5. Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Art Fairs have increased 22% over the past 20 years. This is both good news and bad, The good news is more exposure for more artists. The bad news is the environmental impact.

Every Art Fair requires travel.

Every Art Fair requires setup and breakdown at the venue.

Multiply that by over two hundred art fairs popping up all over the world and suddenly you have a new contributor to the carbon problem. To travel to each and every art Fair would mean plane travel as well as the cost of moving the art fair walls.

“More emissions come from airplanes, cargo ships, and trucks which contribute to 14% of the problem, just below manufacturing.

Right now we don’t have practical zero-carbon options for any of these,” says Bill Gates in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

The hybrid solution with a remote consultant is the closest a collector could get to a real-world experience.

Art shows like Art Dusseldorf with 100 galleries are filling the gap with real knowledgeable art consultants. It also involves featuring remote consultants who are able to shop for a collector via video and use a Consultant App, also embedded in the Ribbon platform.

With the new model, some of the galleries could have a remote-only component where they display from the convenience of their gallery.

What are some other reasons why Art Fairs should consider the hybrid model?

Vinit Patil is the CEO/ Co-founder of Ribbon, a modern platform for Tradesfairs and Art Fairs, and Showrooms. To request a demo visit