Welcome to the art world in 2020. Social distancing is just as normal now as grabbing a drink with friends was two months ago. People are staying home, but galleries still need to provide access to their artists’ work. This new world we all were thrown into caused many galleries to frantically rethink their program for the next year and question how to balance the health and safety of their clients and artists with the demand to sell works. How do you come to bring the same (or similar) in-person experience online, you might ask?
Alex Becerra, Lexus of Inglewood (Self-Portrait), 60” x 48”, Oil on linen, 2020. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
Half Gallery, in the East Village, is answering that question in stride. Fresh off a recent renovation providing the gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows furnishing their entire corner storefront, works could still technically be shown despite the gallery’s temporary closure, saved for those few walking by on the street. While not being able to go into a brick-and-mortar storefront, the gallery has created an online viewing experience unique to them. Accessed through a password off their main website, the viewing room is comprised of a selection of works from eight of the gallery’s artists. It’s easily navigable and provides all the information one might need to purchase a work once clicking on an artist’s name and seeing their art on “display.”
Daniel Heidkamp, Sugiton, 48” x 36”, Oil on linen, 2020. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
Speaking with the owner, Bill Powers, about this sudden change and his gallery’s adaptation, he says the following:
“I like to think of it as an extension of what we would normally have up in the gallery office during any exhibition, a kind of ghost of Christmas past and future. Some of the works by Vaughn Spann were meant to go to Marfa International, which is delayed now until August. And the Ethan Cook and Alex Becerra works were headed to the Dallas Art Fair, but that is also delayed now until Fall 2020. So the online viewing room is an aggregate of all of those things.”
Ethan Cook, Untitled, Handwoven cotton and linen, in two parts, framed, 47” x 86”, 2020. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
It is commendable the lengths dedicated gallerists will go to provide access. Despite these difficult times, Powers and his crew have found a way to continually adapt. This show is an amalgamation of works that were meant to go out to various fairs. Instead of not getting the spotlight they deserved, Half Gallery displayed the works in the viewing room themselves. In preparing for change, they stayed ahead of the curve, setting them up for future digital exhibitions.
Hiejin Yoo, Sunday Best, 39” x 37”, Vinyl and oil on canvas, 2020. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
One such exhibition they have coming up is Under Glass, opening tomorrow. Featuring works from Richard Prince, Anna Park, Peter Schuyff, Umar Rashid, Tom Sachs, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Tanya Merrill and others. From their Instagram: “The entire exhibition is from the street and each piece is mirrored on our website with a brief audio description… Not exactly public art, but art for all.” I couldn’t have said it better myself and definitely look forward to checking out the show tomorrow.
Michael Kagan, Everest 2, Oil on linen 36” x 36”, 2017. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
We also spoke with one of the artists represented in the show, Umar Rashid, about what he thinks about the online viewing rooms, what he’s creating at this time and how he’s looking to move forward. Keep your eyes peeled for our full interview with him next month.
Umar Rashid, 7” x 5”, Acrylic and ink on paper. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
Of course, it’s not the same as going to a show in person. Some of the details are lost in a photograph. The connection you need to feel in order to purchase a work of art might not be as emotional. So how do you mitigate those possible issues? Providing access for these casual viewers by displaying the works regardless of actually opening the doors is one way. Attitude is another factor. When things get tough, you power through. You support those that rely on you and bring what you can to the community as a whole. Half Gallery is doing just that, prioritizing transparency and access as major factors to their success.
Kathia St. Hilaire, Santa Maria, Oil-Based Relief on Canvas, 38” x 38”, 2018. Courtesy of Half Gallery.
I found out about this viewing room through Instagram originally. Now that the digital space is becoming more accessible than the physical world, social media is yet another layer added to our new experience. It makes you consider the benefits of these platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in connecting artists with collectors and galleries with aesthetes. Now more than ever art has the opportunity to connect us during difficult times, and for a first attempt at an online viewing room, Half Gallery is undoubtedly setting themselves up for this new era.