Arts & Culture, Interview, Our City

The Emergency Online Art Gallery

Talking with local galleries about the pros and cons of digital art spaces


Robin MacDonald-Foley. Beech Trees in Winter, 2018

In these times, art of all kinds is more important than ever. Local galleries aren’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic stop them from sharing the work of artists from around the world with a growing audience. Galatea and Kingston Gallery, both based in Boston’s SoWa district and focusing on experimental, abstract art, have moved virtually all of their programming to an online space, transitioning presentations and exhibitions scheduled in-person to a virtual format. Keep reading for how this could impact long-term community engagement. 

Each week, Galatea’s online newsletter will highlight a new selection of artists. Through April 17th artists Carolyn Newberger and Philip Gerstein shared Facebook posts comparing and contrasting their paintings depicting wildly different interpretations of the same natural object. 

Galatea’s director, Marjorie Kaye, said the shift to online operations was only natural, even if there was no pandemic to enforce social distancing rules. When Kaye began Galatea in 2009, after running the virtual Caladan Gallery for a decade, before many galleries had any virtual presence, “it just made sense” to share artwork online, where more viewers can access showings via Zoom calls than may be possible in physical galleries. 

“It’s really important to remain in solidarity as a community of artists,” she said, “both with each other as well as online viewers.” This is especially true for membership-driven galleries like Galatea and Kingston, who rely on support from artists and viewers of art alike. 

It’s a similar situation over at Kingston, where the two most recent exhibitions, Erica Licea-Kane’s “Half Spaces” and “A New Poignancy” featuring various artists, including the gallery’s director Chantal Zakari, have transitioned to online formats. Zakari and Yng-Ru Chen, the gallery’s marketing director, described how their members had coincidentally voted to develop an Artsy presence back in January, and have tasked a team with adding more photos to the platform to speed up the transition during the pandemic. Starting May 6th, they will host Zoom studio visits with emerging artists, and as a means of developing a more comprehensive online presence. The first of these digital studio visits will feature emerging artist Krystle Brown. In addition, they have also begun a series of free talks open to the public via Zoom; “AIDS and COVID-19: Art in the Time of Epidemics” was the inaugural episode. 

Artist Jennifer Jean Costello, who is affiliated with Galatea and manages most of their online presence on Artsy, echoed Kaye’s sentiments. “This is a learning curve for us, but we believe in the power of art. Art is resilient and we will all get through this together.” 

Every show at both galleries in the coming weeks and months will be posted on Artsy, a website that Kaye described as a nucleus for both individual artists and galleries to come together and promote their work. Beyond the community aspect, it provides an easy way for artists and their representatives to communicate with potential buyers and finalize sales. Kaye recommended that individual artists looking to get involved can find spaces on online galleries like Artsy or Saatchi, or any number of other platforms. She anticipates that the online aspect of Galatea’s community will only continue to grow and remain an important facet of their work even after we return to some form of normalcy. 

“We’ve learned a lot as a community,” she said. “And [the Internet] opens up a whole new dimension.” 

Furthermore, while Zakari and the rest of Kingston still value the exhibitions on their physical walls and hope to return to their schedule of monthly in-person shows soon, the online events provide a different kind of space with which to boost visibility.“Even when we open up we can’t have 100 people in the space,” she said, “so going online really allows a national audience to join.”

Check here for new ZOOM talks at Kingston Gallery

Kingston Gallery & Galatea Fine Arts on Artsy

Header Image: On-Kyeong Seong. Haneul, 2019.

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