Why Virtual Galleries Could Help Shape a Different Future for Artists

by Chris Davies

Virtual art galleries may be an emerging concept for many. But there are several good reasons why these could provide an exciting new avenue for artists working in all mediums.


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Virtual gallery, image courtesy of Kunstmatrix.


Ever-advancing technologies, combined with radical changes in consumer trends and how art collections are curated, could all point the way towards an exciting digital future for creatives. But what are these changes, and how can artists get involved?

What is a Virtual Art Gallery?

A virtual art gallery is more than just a website featuring images of artists’ work. It’s a fully interactive experience which, as you’d expect, can take many different forms.

Examples include:

New York’s New Museum

This innovative gallery has been commissioning artists specifically for its New Art Online series for the past few years. Currently, viewers can take in a wide range of varied works, including CAVRNCODE by Brenna Murphy (an interactive game with incredible 3D visuals) and Oliver Laric’s ‘Lincoln 3D Scans’, a collaboration with The Collection Museum in Lincoln, UK.

This latter project involved turning the museum’s collection of sculptures into interactive 3D scans that can be viewed, appreciated and downloaded by anyone, regardless of where they are in the world. It aims to challenge the notion of the ‘authorized image’ and where the boundaries of an art collection end.

Virtual Art Space

Describing itself as a ‘network of 3D virtual galleries for displaying art on the internet’, this site invites artists to open a free account, choose an appropriate 3D gallery, and upload their work.

VAS was founded by a group of artists keen to replicate the real-world experience of visiting a gallery virtually. To this end, artists can hang and position their work in purpose-built virtual exhibition spaces, get visitors from all over the world and communicate with them, get to meet other artists, and even host real-time opening events and private views.

With free apps available for Apple and Android, your work can be viewed in its virtual setting anytime, anywhere. And, with the launch of its new VAS-PRO app, artists can create and publish new exhibitions right from their iPad.

The Infinity Pool

This is a digital-only exhibition space where selected artists can broadcast bodies of work not available elsewhere. All projects are ‘exhibited’ online for 31 days before all records are deleted, helping to create a sense of urgency for viewers while avoiding unwanted distribution of copyrighted works.

Currently, the site is hosting a tribute to Mario Bava, considered by many film buffs to be the king of Italian horror movies. Viewers can click on an image before being taken to a full-screen presentation featuring clips from his films.

Petrella’s Imports

This is a virtual newsstand, where viewers can pick a book from the shelf, click on it, and be taken to a pdf of the publication. The brainchild of artists Anne Libby, Elise Mcmahon, and Sophie Stone, Petrella’s Imports started life as a real-life installation at Bowery and Canal Street, New York City, in April 2013.

Intended as a tribute to the ramshackle, highly individual newsstands which used to be a common feature in the city’s busy streets, this project made innovative use of public space as a means of exhibiting art. Its shelves were overflowing with art journals, zines and books, in addition to more regular newsstand items such as drinks and cigarette lighters, all given an artistic twist.

Its name was chosen as a reference to Adam Petrella, a unique character who ran his newsstand, Petrella’s Point, there for 30 years before packing up in 2004. Not only was his newsstand painted a vivid shade of red, he’d decorated it with helpful directions to subway stations and other useful locations. He also used to enjoy sketching Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe, and would often give his drawings away to regular customers.

WHERE Gallery

Also based in NYC, this gallery has taken a unique approach to exhibiting the work of its artists. Currently, artist Melissa Brown has transformed a shipping container installed at the gallery into a live poker game, where a webcam captures the action and broadcasts it live. You can tune in and even contact the players directly as they wager their artwork against other forms of currency.

It’s a wry take on the established art world, and an interesting analysis of trust. You can see the hands of all the players, but will you be willing to contact them and help them cheat?

Light and Wire

The Light and Wire Gallery in Los Angeles has now been established for six years and continues to attract rave reviews for its online exhibitions. Currently, the site features a walkthrough of ‘the experience of installation’, giving viewers a unique insight into artists’ minds from their PCs, smartphones or tablets. Curated by Gladys-Katherina Hernando, it’s dedicated to supporting temporary projects exclusively designed to function on the internet.

New, Virtual Ways of Exhibiting and Selling Art

Another fascinating development is the emergence of online art dealers who specialize in work that is only available to own in digital format.

One example of this is Sedition, where you can purchase limited edition art for your computer, phone, tablet or TV. You can browse through work by leading contemporary artists, such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Bill Viola, Yoko Ono and many more. Once purchased, your collection is stored virtually and can be accessed at any time on any of your devices. Each piece of artwork is numbered and comes with a certificate of authenticity. You can also make your collection visible to others via your collector’s profile on the site.

With regards to how exhibitions are curated, it’s interesting to take a look at Curatron, an innovative piece of software which enables artists to play an active role in the exhibitions they’re taking part in. Using an anonymous system of peer evaluation and selection, it uses a range of complex algorithms to devise a perfectly-themed cohesive show, with valuable input from real-life human artists.

With the whole concept of artists as curators being the subject of much debate recently, this is an interesting, if slightly nerdy, take on the whole affair. Could it work for you?

Why Artists Need to Embrace The Digital World

According to research recently published by Gartner, sales of tablets are predicted to outstrip those of PCs by 2015. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever for artists to consider the impact this could have upon their online sales.

If you have a website, is it optimized for mobile devices? Perhaps you are a WordPress user, and you’ll find there’s a huge range of ‘responsive’ templates out there for you to choose from. If you host your work on an external portfolio site, it’s worth checking if this has been designed to work smoothly (and look awesome) on tablets and smartphones. And if not, it might be time to look for a good alternative.

What’s your take on virtual galleries? Could they point the way towards an exciting future for artists and art exhibitions? I’d love to hear your views, so feel free to drop me a line below.

Image credit: courtesy of Kunstmatrix.


Guest blogger, Chris Davies, is a member of the team at Pencil Kings – a Vancouver-based online art tutorials and community resource that aims to make learning accessible and affordable to all. With a background in fine art and journalism, Chris likes to combine his passion for all things visual with writing about topics he hopes others will find useful and interesting.



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  1. Hello Chris,

    Interesting article…

    I tend to feel that virtual art galleries will serve as forerunners of future 3D social interfaces. What does that mean – well – n a world that grows more virtual every day, it is absurd that the virtual, the space that exists inside the computer screen, is almost wholly focused on copying our physical reality. As WebGL and HMDs (Head Mounted Displays) break the technical boundaries, it is the artist that must break the conceptual ones. New art, new forms of virtual installations and exhibits need to emerge – and for the interface, the ability to search, explore, and be social within this new art.

    Decades of work exist, yet most of it long forgotten. The users of SecondLife rarely appreciated the work done in VRML. Today’s users of Unity 3D typically know little of either. So then the path to the future lies in a remembrance of the past and that past serving as a foundation and guide of lessons learned.


    for example…

    my own little project is here:


  2. Hi Steve and thanks for your feedback – much appreciated!
    You’ve raised some really thought-provoking points here about virtual art and galleries and it’ll be interesting to see where this takes us in future. As you say, an appreciation and understanding of what’s gone before is crucial to future developments, so perhaps we need to start treating early examples of virtual artworks as an integral part of recent art history?
    I’d love to hear how your project develops, so feel free to keep me updated!
    All the best for now,

  3. Interesting article.
    I would like to report another very interesting site that promotes art through virtual galleries http://www.virartgallery.com
    here are some examples:
    thank you

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