The VIP Art Fair is gearing up to return in 2012 with the jury still out on whether the first edition of the world's first virtual art fair was a great idea marred by imperfect execution, or a sign that there is no substitute for experiencing art in the flesh in a real art fair.
After 10 days of mixed success and technical malfunction, the 2011 VIP Art Fair closed with, as fair organiser James Cohan put it, “some very sore feelings”. The VIP organisers offered 50% refunds to participants and allowed galleries to continue maintaining their virtual online booths for months after the official close of the event. But Cohan also believed the first fair was “a big success” and referred to the website as an “enormous resource” – one that was not to be dismantled at the end of the fair but that galleries will use on an ongoing basis. [This initiative has been put on the back burner.]
In the lead up to VIP1, Jane Cohen said the fair's success would be measured against the traffic generated by other international art fairs. Because users would have to register with the site to enter the fair, she said, the VIP Art Fair would have accurate numbers. The final count was 41,000 registered users – pretty good, but not a spectacular result for a fair that could be attended by people dressed in their pyjamas. Most of the major fairs claim 60,000 or more attendees for their events.
However, galleries are signing up for the second edition which will take place in February 2012. One intriguing feature of VIP2 is a virtual Museum and Edition Hall where international museums will sell editions. Cohan is reported as saying the Serpentine Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and Parkett magazine are already on board.