2020 was a very interesting year- to say the least. Just like the rest of the world, Gallery and Art weekends had to deal with many unprecedented challenges. For some it was, despite the circumstances, a successful year. For others, unfortunately, it was rather an unpleasant ride. Below you can find a conversation with Lisbon Art Weekend, Brussels Gallery Weekend, Dusseldorf Cologne Open Galleries & Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend about last year’s experiences. What have they been up to? How did they cope with this unusual situation? Was there a bright side to all of this? Ending with some exciting prospects for the upcoming year.
Could you tell us about the general mood? Did you have to adapt some things? How would you compare it with 2019 and how do you imagine 2021?
Lisbon Art Weekend: Three days before the event, the government announced a state of emergency with a curfew on the weekend (from 1 pm). All the events had to be adapted according to these hours, mostly on Friday or Saturday and Sunday morning until 1 pm. As expected this year was focused mainly on local visibility and the last-minute curfew decision affected the numbers of visitors, compared to last year. Hopefully, 2021 will take place in a better environment…
Brussels Gallery Weekend: 2020 has been, in a way, our best edition. We had fewer international visitors but many local visitors came. Families but also curators, art students, and many collectors. Everyone seemed happy to have the opportunity to go back to the galleries. Some adaptations had to take place. Our main show has been moved from one big building to vitrines in order to avoid big crowds. Into the galleries, there was a limited amount of visitors so visitors had to queue up. Galleries told us they had an amazing edition and did great sales. Our exhibition was a success too. As large VIP events were complicated we did launch a VIP program including studio visits, collection visits, visits in galleries with special guides,… all of this in small groups. This was very much appreciated.
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: The general mood was surprisingly good – even though we had to cancel the DC Open evening, a dinner for 700 collectors, curators, and gallerists/artists, which always takes place in a museum or institution in the Rhineland. The energy of this evening, where everybody is excited to meet for the seasons’ opening, was transferred to the participating galleries. We will surely maintain some adaptations for 2021. The general idea was to establish an absolutely safe feeling for all visitors of DC Open. So we focused on small guided VIP Tours and a limousine shuttle service for all invited VIP guests. Opening hours were extended.
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: We changed the whole program of Apertura. We canceled both the collectors’ dinner, and the welcome brunch, and the only visits we did for collectors took place outside, as a tour of public art around the city of Madrid. The official opening of all the galleries was at noon instead of at 5 pm, so we could all welcome more visitors and respect the limitations, and we collaborated with Artsy and Artland so all the exhibitions could be seen on both online platforms. We collaborated as well with the resident dancing companies of the Comunidad de Madrid so they performed in all the galleries, and people could follow them around. The general mood was good, as even the restrictions people really appreciated the effort of all the galleries to be open and the new program for the upcoming season.
How did you cope with changing to a more digital focused approach?
Lisbon Art Weekend: Guided tours took place online, the participant spaces were filmed and presented by our guide. And our annual Art Talk also took place online. All the visual content is currently available on our social media platforms. Since the interaction with our audience was mainly on social media we saw a growth in our following, sharing, and likes.
Brussels Gallery Weekend: We have changed our website. It used to be a simple list of shows and a map. For the new website, we did focus much more on images. The galleries have the opportunity to show their installation views, the works in the shows, and also to be contacted by the public through our website. Our kids’ workshops became online workshops that could be done from home,…
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: For all visitors, who were not able to attend, there was a complete digital version of DC Open available. The online exhibition of the 2020 edition was presented by ARTBUTLER Showrooms. Each show was also covered digitally and we had a main showroom with selected works from the participants.
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: Before Covid, we were already working on designing a new identity, rebuilding the website, and developing an app in order to be more sustainable reducing the use of paper; this really helped us to be ready for Apertura 2020.
Was there a positive side of Coronavirus? Did it bring new ideas and projects?
Lisbon Art Weekend: It brought more visibility for the guided tours and art talk since there was no visitors limit, it expanded our audience for people that couldn’t even be in Lisbon at that time.
Brussels Gallery Weekend: Yes as said earlier it forced us to re-think many sides of the event. From the VIP to the workshops and our show. It has been a very rich experience for us.
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: The positive side was to establish DC Open also as a digital version, in our own “ecosystem” without relying on third-party platforms. Also, our Instagram feed and IGTV interviews were extremely well received.
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: The importance of the gallery space and the intimate relationship with the artwork and the artist we offer is being reinforced due to the lack of fairs. Missing the physical experience before a work of art has made all of us more conscious of how meaningful art is to us. The closure of museums has also reaffirmed how relevant galleries are to the cultural ecosystem of our cities, and the valuable role we do have. This time of no traveling is also giving most of the gallerists the chance to focus in the gallery program, in digital changes, and in offering to the local public more activities than before. Thinking global and acting local has certainly made a difference.
How do you imagine the Gallery Weekends in the future now that art fairs can’t take place?
Lisbon Art Weekend: Since the Gallery Weekends are not an enclosed event like a fair we think it will continue to garner more attention and help in experimenting and improving on the different methods and strategies to support the growth of the art market, acting as encouragement and stimulant.
Brussels Gallery Weekend: I very much hope that art fairs will start soon again. The fact that fairs couldn’t take place potentially gave some importance to the gallery weekends, still, I believe that both are complementary and have different focuses.
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: Gallery Weekends right now have the better concept compared to art fairs. Their “booths” are de-central in the galleries, with an additional digital exhibition of selected works. If the weekends promote this advantage, they will become stronger, also as a network (Art Across Europe)
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: Gallery weekends have always been important, and they are a completely different experience than art fairs. We hope we will go back to enjoy both but meanwhile, gallery weekends will reinforce the gallery space as a point of connection between the artist and our society, between art and people; and the extremely important labor we galleries do to create cultural content, open freely to everyone during the whole year in our cities
Travels have been more difficult in 2020. Still international visitors may want to visit, how did you adapt to that and how do you see this for 2021?
Lisbon Art Weekend: In 2020, we focused on acting locally by inviting Lisbon residents to visit the galleries and attend our events. For 2021, we will indeed adapt to the circumstances and take the precautions necessary for the international visitors to feel safe and comfortable. We plan to establish connections in the tourism services of the city in order for the area to flourish once again.
Brussels Gallery Weekend: In 2021 we’ll focus more on neighboring countries and also our local public which is very strong and has shown us how much they support us and the galleries.
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: We will extend the digital version of DC Open in 2021.
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: Due to travel restrictions we had to cancel the program of international guest of aperture 2020, that has been inviting international curators since the beginning with the help of ACE. Fortunately, these curators could enjoy the exhibitions through Arty and Artland and we talked to them afterward and got very positive feedback. We hope this will change in 2021 as no digital experience is comparable to visiting a gallery, enjoying an artwork physically, and finding out about the creative process of an artist.
Can you tell us about upcoming projects?
Lisbon Art Weekend: Currently, we are planning to focus on our VIP program to bring attention to national and international collectors. Besides, our plan is to schedule artists’ studio visits during the year as well, in order to connect directly with national and international artists living in Lisbon. We are also planning to do an application in the following years.
Brussels Gallery Weekend: In Brussels, we’ll mostly focus on new events such as the Open Doors which emerged in June after the first lockdown. During two days organized a “mini gallery weekend” in order to bring back the public to the galleries. We also did launch the Brussels Gallery Walks and hope to continue in this mood for 2021. In January we will launch a project in order to support a food bank for people from the culture. The covid has led to many difficulties in the art world and in the culture in a larger way. We wanted to help as much we could with a nice project.
Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries: We have launched the DC Open app in 2018 and made two upgrades with new features in 2019 and 2020. It is very easy to navigate and especially the map function is very useful, together with texts and pics about the exhibitions. We will extend the digital version of DC Open in 2021. We also plan an “Open Doors” Weekend with the re-opening of galleries after the current shutdown.
Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend: In order to bring galleries closer to a target public and provide more accessibility, we will launch Arte Madrid App which is coming soon.
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