With the art market forced to exist in a virtual world, art curators, galleries, and museums have had to reimagine themselves within the confines of a screen. The Columbia Art Market Society aims to navigate these challenges through community-led conversations that discuss the future of art.
CAMS was founded last semester by co-presidents Chloe Brown, CC ’22, and Shaina Pearl, GS/JTS ’22, to create a space on campus devoted to the relationship between art and finance. The organization is especially interested in reflecting on modern issues disrupting the art world and their financial implications on both the primary (galleries and museums) and secondary (auction houses) art markets.
The group’s inaugural event last semester was a talk with independent curator and editor of Art Nexus magazine Francine Birbragher-Rozencwaig in which she discussed her past exhibitions and the Latin American art market’s potential. CAMS plans to organize similar events this semester, ranging from talks with leading art professionals to discussions about virtual art auctions and galleries.
“We have an advantage with the virtual format of this fall semester. Now we have access to so many incredible people that we can bring for our members to learn from and hear their experiences in the industry,” Brown said.
Last Wednesday, CAMS hosted a conversation with guest speaker Eva Respini, the Barbara Lee Chief Curator at ICA/Boston and former MoMA curator. Respini discussed the surprising benefits the virtual world has provided for the art market, including increased accessibility to art research and curation. Still, she remarked that virtual resources do not allow viewers to experience the physicality and scale of a work and emphasized the importance of viewing art in person.
“I think I’m a traditionalist in that I still believe in the power of art in-person, even if it’s a digital work. There is a trace of that in-person art experience and how I deal with it in the museum [and] art gallery context,” Respini said. “At the end of the day, it is supposed to be seen in a physical space.”
Respini is personally navigating this struggle as she prepares to co-commission—along with artist Simone Leigh—the U.S. Pavillion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2022 while managing the logistics of producing an art show in Venice from afar.
“I’m seeing very little art in-person. A big part of my job, especially as a curator of contemporary art, is to see what’s out there. … There is something that cannot be communicated by a jpeg or gif or whatever [it] happens to be,” Respini added.
To ensure the club’s inclusivity, members are given the opportunity throughout the semester to select future speakers for talks that go behind the scenes of the industry. Members can also contribute ideas for “salons,” CAMS' monthly art forums on topics chosen by the community. The first salon held on Oct. 7 was “an open discussion on how the art world historically has excluded marginalized artists.” The Zoom salons create a space for students interested in the art world and the art market to have a casual conversation about the topic of the month and art market news.
CAMS stays connected with its community by sending a weekly newsletter with updates on the art market and the evolving trends within it, as well as information about how to access live virtual art events. The newsletter offers fast access to a variety of stories focusing on four pillars: The Art Market Update, World Art News, Art World in Review and Notable Exhibitions with both online and in-person options for viewing exhibits. Recent highlights included Art Newspaper’s story about Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector stepping down and a piece from Sotheby’s about the increase in the number of bidders in the art market during the pandemic.
To further its mission to engage with diversity and inclusion in the art world, CAMS hopes to partner with the Columbia Women’s Business Society in November for Women in Art Business, an event focused on highlighting women leaders in the field. CAMS plans to ask these women artists to share their points of view on how their creative processes and their ability to sell their work has been impacted by the pandemic.
“We are trying to see different women from different backgrounds and professional backgrounds, and how they have specifically adapted to COVID,” Pearl said.
In addition to creating opportunities for members to engage in open conversation, bringing in guest speakers, and curating international art news, CAMS is considering hosting an online auction featuring students' work—immersing students in the art world wherever they are located this semester.