Re-creating the art world
An interview with Virtual Artists Adam Kushner (Owner) and René Marino Sasson (Manager and curator)
by Kay Hare
Adam Kushner and René Marino-Sasson are opening up the art world for many contemporary artists, perhaps encouraging a revolution in art. During a difficult and challenging time for many, they have spotted the online opportunity for artists to show their work to an international audience with little expense.
The online art presence has always been available. Still, not many artists embraced the idea particularly as it is traditionally nice to go to an art gallery, have a glass of wine, meet the artists, and network. However, with the current lockdowns and technology improving rapidly, it’s easy and convenient to do this from the comfort of our own homes, and why not?
How did you start? Was the gallery a physical space, or has it always been a virtual online idea?
(Adam) I knew René, who, as an artist, has experience of exhibitions. I had a business before covid called ‘Robots of London,’ but the pandemic impacted this business. Still, coincidentally, we had pre-covid started to develop digital robots that have similar functions as human robots in the way you can react with them. We then realized we could combine the two and have digital robots interacting in a virtual room, for example, an art exhibition. Essentially creating digital avatars.
I have the technical knowledge to design online platforms, and we started talking about the challenges artists face and solutions for artists to show their work. Between us, we realized we made a good team sharing our different fields of knowledge. Obviously, the pandemic accelerated our ideas, and we formed our new platform ‘Virtual artists’, very quickly.
(René) It was always an idea of mine to improve exhibition participation and the artist’s experience. I felt disappointed with many experiences as an artist and sometimes when viewing art shows. However, opening a physical gallery was always going to be challenging. This was a perfect opportunity to explore my ideas and start my own company. Hence, combining the virtual gallery with my ideas worked perfectly, so I guess it was quite organic in this sense.
So many artists are creating amazing work now, but they are not selling. They don’t have the right visibility. I like to recruit artists that have marketable potential as well as talent. Bringing these artists to light and providing a large audience offers many artists new opportunities as well as inspiration.
How does the online gallery work? Are there advantages to having a virtual space as opposed to a physical?
(Adam) We create everything bespoke, building the floors and walls, and then placing the artwork on the walls. Each time we hold an exhibition, we recreate it better, learning as we go along. It will always be an ongoing process of learning, especially as technology improves.
(René) If an artist wants their own solo exhibition all we need are high-resolution photographs or we create from scratch.
(Adam) I think the range of artists is so vast it is overwhelming. However, art is subjective, and everyone has their own favorites. The beauty and brilliance of ‘Virtual Artists’ are we can show work on an international scale to virtually everyone at the click of a button and of course with very little expense.
Are you only interested in art and exhibitions, or can you host other events such as science conferences or cooking courses?
(René) We create platforms for virtually anything. We have worked with PR companies creating online seminars, conferences, press releases, and product launches. Everything is bespoke. It is open to one’s imagination. We can create walk-in cinemas and red carpet events; however, it immediately lends itself to art exhibitions, especially in the current climate. Displaying art with the artist present in real-time and interact with clients and other people is unique. The artist can discuss prices, share information just like you would do in a physical art exhibition. Other people attending gain from the experience as well, as they can chat with each other.
(Adam) The software we utilize is ‘spatial audio,’ so it allows a private conversation without others’ online hearing. As an avatar, you control the direction you would move in, and you can start talking without others listening. It mimics what you would do in the real world. Interestingly, people do act in the virtual world as they do in real life.
The software is really quite sophisticated if you have a large audience say a conference where you don’t want people talking, we enable a mute control, which is quite a common facility; however, we can also offer quite interesting private security information benefits. Entering the events can be controlled, so if you have an art auction, it can be streamed on multi-platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram simultaneously. You can only enter the event if you have the link knowing exactly who is online.
Do you think buyers can really get a good idea of the work of art they are buying online?
(René) Absolutely, the graphics are very sharp, with ultra HD exposure. You have the ability within the software to go up to the painting you like, and it fills the whole screen upfront. You can also zoom in on the painting on the website under the shop.
If they don’t like it when they get the artwork home, can they return it?
(René) We have never had this experience. Art is unique, and unless something is vastly different from what they see online, one has a hard time refunding. Our platform and visuals are excellent reproductions with little room for not buying what you see. The negation during the event would decide the price, and perhaps this aspect is a private conversation with the artist and buyer.
What happens if people start to make offers? Does it become an online auction?
(Adam) During the live event, it really is a negotiationion between the buyer and seller. If you wanted to purchase after the event, you could go on the website anytime and purchase. We are purely the facilitator for the artist to sell and expose their work.
How do the artists participate in the exhibition?
The artists can enter the environment at any time as an avatar or use their web camera and recreate their face/ image onto the avatar. Their name appears on the avatars, so you know who you are talking to. It takes 20 seconds to create their image. It is like a normal gallery with the artist available to chat for the private view, and then after the gallery is open to view anytime or within the chosen framework usually 2-3 weeks.
How do you see the future – the next 12 months?
(Adam) Before Christmas, we thought we would be coming out of this; however, now we are less hopeful. I think that one thing that has come as a result of this is people appreciate the new ‘stay at home’ rules and enjoying sitting in a comfortable armchair and viewing an art exhibition anywhere in the world from London to New Zealand, without having to go anywhere or have any hassle traveling. You can choose when you view the work. You can see the art alone without any pressure on buying or interaction.
When the new world comes back, I think the art galleries will still be looking to create virtual galleries, as well as providing the opportunity to see it in person. There will be a choice for people, opening the gallery up to the whole world. This is the key. It brings globalization into the art world. We can have an exhibition opening in Brazil, and anyone can view it from the comfort of their own home. This has never been possible before and is catching on very quickly. How far it will grow, not sure, but the technology is improving rapidly. The quality of the software in twelve months is a phenomenon. The platforms being developed are incredible. It won’t be long before you can visually walk around an art gallery and feel like its you wandering around.
Do you think more people will be buying art for their homes?
(René) People will always be interested in art. They will always be buying art to decorate their homes, and people are bored and, with more time on their hands, happy to explore new artists. It doesn’t take much to jump online and view. They get ‘value for money’ as they don’t have to travel anywhere to see an exhibition in say Paris. Having exhibitions on line allows more opportunity, more exposure, and more negations for artists and buyers.
For more information:
Inspiring international lifestyles based on the French Riviera