The persistence of galleries

By Tiana Severino-Fidow @maybetfidss

Over the past year, we have traded our normal chaotic environments for online spaces. While we attempt to get comfortable with what seems like a never-ending lockdown, the pandemic has presented something new to the art world. 

While the idea of visiting art galleries and museums online isn’t particularly new, virtual reality (VR) art galleries have made their way to the forefront since we’ve had to give up our conventional ways of life. 

The first notable switch to the online realm came in 2017, with David Zwirner Gallery launching online rooms on their website. These online rooms are most commonly referred to as ‘viewing rooms.’

Head of content, Lucas Zwirner, mentions in Dialogues, that virtual galleries pose new opportunities in a way that physical art galleries can’t. “Online exhibitions can do things that brick-and-mortar exhibitions can’t,” he explained, “they can embed videos, longer excerpts of art-historically relevant material, and artists-created content.” 


Statistica reported a sharp increase in global online sales of art and antiques in 2020. While the contributing factor to this spike can be pinpointed to COVID-19, this was the push that the online art market needed.

“Auction and houses and art fairs boosted their digital presence, relying on formats such as Online Viewing Rooms (OVRS) – letting art collectors and enthusiasts experience 3D digital reproductions of artworks – as well as streaming auctions and events.” 

A virtual exhibition held at Nottingham Contemporary. Picture. CC: V21 Artspace / Wikimedia

The option to extend an artist’s exhibition virtually once it’s over increases their prospects of being able to share their works with the rest of the world without limitation and gives artists the chance to earn a bit more coin.

Lovers of art won’t be getting the short straw here either. Let’s list some of the many advantages of an online art gallery!


Travel time and cost is cut by 100% when you have the option to walk through art galleries in the digital realm.

Imagine being able to take a stroll in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery in London,  or The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) all in one day.


Yes, if your embarrassing Facebook pictures from 2007 can manage to live rent-free on google images so can your favourite artist’s exhibitions.

Usually, exhibitions in art galleries are only shown for a short period of time and if you’ve managed to miss it welllll … say no more, it’s only a few clicks away. Art is timeless and the capacity to preserve works online to visit anytime, anywhere, 24/7 really does speak to that.


No lies were told when I mentioned VR galleries are accessible, this also means to artists too. If you have a passion for art and have something to share with the world – why not take matters into your own hands by setting up your own gallery online.

If you’re interested, Art Dex Gives great tips on how to start up your own virtual art gallery.

So while there’s no denying that the experience is not the same as visiting a gallery yourself, it’s important to recognise the merge between the physical and online world which have revived the art world and presented something new to the cultural sector. It would seem like VR galleries have well arrived and are here to stay.

Featured image: The Boston Cyberarts Festival held at CounterpART Gallery. Picture. CC: Lance Shields/Flickr

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