If you’re not yet familiar with The Artling, it’s a well-curated online gallery launched by Talenia Phua-Gajardo that highlights (and sells) contemporary artworks and design items from Singapore and around Asia. Like all other industries out there, the art world has also been impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. One problem highlighted by Kim Tay, gallery director at The Artling is this: while it’s great there are more and more galleries holding online viewings both locally and globally, what happens if you wish to purchase an artwork and have it shipped to your place?
According to Tay, shipping costs for artworks have risen prohibitively (to the tune of two or even threefold the usual price) due to restrictions in movements worldwide – hence their decision to launch a new initiative called Art In My City. The initiative promotes a selection of artworks and design objects from local galleries, artists and designers across different cities around Asia.
Each week, a different country will be in the spotlight – including China, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Singapore – allowing for audiences to support their respective local art ecosystem and, of course, it helps cut down on shipping fees as well. Not only that, The Artling is also working on online meet-ups based on virtual reality technology, as well as improving their existing AR (augmented reality) features. Here, we talk to Tay on what potential customers – as well as artists and galleries – can expect from Art In The City.
How does this new initiative represent a break from how The Artling usually
We’ve always been an online platform accessible from anywhere in the world, but (while) we
have focused in the past on expanding the reach of artists beyond their physical
geographical borders, this new initiative brings the focus back to local support for artists
in the community. With the current virus situation, international shipments are reduced
and increasingly cost-prohibitive. #ArtInMyCity aims to combat this concern by having
local buyers support the artists in their own city.
Can an independent artist or designer or gallery not previously listed on The
Artling apply to be represented?
Yes, absolutely. We have many new artists, designers and galleries approaching the
platform to start listing now, as a new avenue for sales and exposure to a wider audience.
How has the local art industry as a whole has been impacted?
Everyone within the industry has been impacted, no one has been spared here. We all
certainly have very challenging times ahead of us, which is why it’s more important than
ever to come together to collaborate and support each other wherever possible. We know
that many galleries and artists will suffer from the lost opportunity of participating in art
fairs and hosting exhibition openings, but we are hopeful that the industry will recover
once things calm down again.
Shipping costs for artworks have risen prohibitively. What’s the situation like?
Shipment costs are increasing because the number of international flights have been
reduced due to travel limitations and lack of demand. This means that the cost per
package on a shipment goes up, as the cost of getting the package from City A to City B
has increased with additional measures being put in place worldwide – we’ve seen prices
fluctuate in the past few weeks to double or triple the usual amount.
Could you elaborate on the AR features, as well as the VR meet-ups?
Our AR feature can be accessed via our iOS app and essentially enables all users to see,
in real-time, what an artwork looks like on their wall. It’s a great tool for checking on
size and style, as this can sometimes be difficult to imagine accurately in one’s mind. We
will also be pushing out a new feature in the coming weeks that will be directly on our
website – something that allows visitors to better envision the artworks in their own
Is there a silver lining to this situation?
We would like to think so, though we acknowledge that these may be very difficult to
pinpoint right now. If anything, it will push creatives to get their portfolios in order and
encourage them to find other ways of reaching their audiences and databases. Dire
situations can force us to consider uncomfortable realities, and surprising results may
arise from this. We have to stay optimistic.
How do you imagine the art business changing when this pandemic ends?
The art industry is known for being opaque and resistant to change, but the virus has
taken everyone by surprise and has forced many artists, galleries and collectors to
consider how they go about selling or buying art. I anticipate that the yearly schedule of
seasonal fairs may see a reduction in numbers, and many more galleries exploring the
online sphere as an additional opportunity for revenue.
All images courtesy of The Artling