Artsteps gallery is both exciting and devastatingly disappointing. It represents both a challenge to the preconceptions of an exhibition space, and a destruction of the body and its interaction with object and space. Artsteps gallery is a virtual gallery that operates online. The gallery exhibits hundreds of exhibitions permanently and simultaneously, and is curated externally by individuals using the site. In this review I will explore the advantages and disadvantages of exhibiting in the virtual space Artsteps, and the changing way that art is being shared.
Artsteps is an online platform to view and create virtual exhibitions. There is no selection process and no monitoring, it was created as a place where all artists can show their work or curate an exhibition of other artists work. With a premium account, which cost 20 euro to create, an artist can exhibit an exhibition that runs for a selected number of months and is accessible to other Artsteps viewers. There is also an option to embed the virtual exhibition in a website or blog.
An example of the use of this gallery space is as a platform for art enthusiasts to curate an exhibition of work that would be close to impossible to collate in the physical world. The exhibition I visited was titled ‘The Birth of Venus’ which featured a large collection of paintings from around the world depicting the birth of Venus. Due to the nature of the virtual space and the digital reproductions of these paintings flooding the internet, it is possible to create a space for no cost in which the viewer can experience (to a certain extent) work that they would normally have to travel extensively to see.
In order to find this exhibition I first had to type ‘virtual gallery space’ into my Google search browser. The second option was Artsteps. Once on the website I was given a list of the most popular exhibitions available, and from this list I selected the Birth of Venus. From my research, a simple rating system and the most popular list are the only source of advertising an artist will receive from Artsteps Gallery. When you open the exhibition to explore, a window comes up in the middle of the screen and the viewer finds themselves in virtual gallery space seen from a first person perspective. Upon first viewing the gallery, one is struck by the realism of the space. The lighting is perhaps slightly too even, and the walls maintain a certain digitally rendered quality, but the illusion is smooth enough that it isn’t too much of a distraction from the work. You navigate the space using the arrow keys and click on the works for more information. The ‘Birth of Venus’ exhibition was curated by art enthusiast Sherine and has a rating of 4 stars and 705 views. The works are framed, but unevenly spaced and aligned which gives the show a messy look. There does however appear to be a certain narrative in the way they are arranged. The venue is at the same time highly inappropriate and appropriate. Inappropriate as the very famous and expensive historical works seem strangely out of place being tossed around so flippantly in virtual space by an unknown amateur curator, and appropriate as the juxtaposition of the highly prestigious works within in the unknown cyber gallery perfectly represents the changing way that images are distributed and consumed in an equal and non-exclusive way.
I chose this venue to explore because the concept of a virtual gallery is intriguing to me, and as a visual artist who is becoming aware of the benefits of an online presence and the challenges of creating a physical one, I am keen to investigate the merit of such a space. In order to fully understand the virtual art gallery, I created my own account and exhibition of a small series of work I am hoping to exhibit in the future. From my hands on research I discovered that you not only can you exhibit two dimensional work such as paintings and drawings but also three dimensional sculptures, and video art. When creating an exhibition you have to upload the work, choose the type of gallery space, and arrange the work. You can add additional rooms and information, and change the space layout and the colour of the walls and floor.
Artsteps virtual gallery does not replace the physical gallery. There is so much to gain from a physical work and space that cannot be replicated in this online platform. It doesn’t have the respect and prestige of a physical gallery or the promotional support. It does however have a different advantage and use as an online promotional tool. For instance, through Artsteps I can use code to embed the exhibition I created into my artists webpage bellow the photographs of the series. This way the viewer not only has access to isolated photographs of my work, but can enter into a space in which they interact as a whole series within the virtual gallery. Perhaps such a tool would only appeal to a certain open-minded audience and for this reason I would always have both individual photographs as well as the option to experience them in a virtual gallery.
My conclusion is that Artsteps is a handy and arguably fancy tool for artists to use to share and promote their work. It can be embedded into websites, social networking site, and blogs. The limitations of the virtual gallery space are that the full sensory experience of interacting with physical work is removed. There are also problems with lack of promotion support, and lack of quality control through Artsteps. As a tool for presenting work it is very user friendly and valuable. The Artsteps virtual gallery is more accessible to artists and viewers as it is free and can be accessed from the comfort of homes all over the world. It allows viewers and artists to compare works that would be impossible to gather together in the physical world.
The physical gallery is far from becoming obsolete, but there is room for the virtual gallery to grow as a tool for artists and a platform to show there work to a larger global audience. Artsteps virtual gallery space is a great novelty tool for promotion and sharing, but as a competitive gallery space, I believe the idea could be taken further and be executed with more success.