Virtual Reception, A New Normal

This article is about my experience venturing into the world of digital meetings and in this case, a virtual Reception party. On April 23, 2020, my gallery hosted a virtual Opening Reception via Google Meet for our first exhibition, Nancy Gruskin: Life Still which is on view right now online through May 14, 2020.

I started this gallery in the middle of a pandemic and took this as a sign for me to present art and art exhibitions in non-traditional ways. Thinking outside the box, I knew that we can reach a larger global audience through technology whilst allowing the public to experience art without leaving their home. If we can’t visit galleries, we bring the galleries to you. If we can’t attend an Opening Reception, we bring the reception to your home albeit, virtually via online vehicles like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet and others.

First of all, I chose Google Meet instead of the very popular Zoom as I have a G-Suite account and it allows me to host up to 250 users without additional fee. In addition, the security breach and hacking problems, the so called ‘Zoom hijack’ was a concern for me. In this day and age, we not only have to be savvy art gallerists, we have to have the technological knowledge to tackle the market forces which changed overnight due to COVID19.

I was not aware of any galleries hosting a virtual Reception although there were already quite a few galleries pushing live content through Instagram and Facebook Live and Zoom so there was no precedent. Gathering people from all over the world to attend a virtual reception, where your guests bring their own drinks and get in front of their computer or phone to remotely visit the exhibition and to talk to the host (me) and the artist, to me is a novel yet daring idea.

What I have learned from this experience is the following:

1. Publicize the event ahead of time (obviously)

2. Allow attendees to register and obtain a link to the ‘meeting’ – knowing beforehand who will be attending is helpful to identify your audience.

3. Rehearse your meeting beforehand– there will be unexpected happenings but at least have an agenda for the event. Map out what you want to say and do, and be in control of the event.

4. Make it fun – have a drink in hand and toast everyone, be welcoming and treat it as if they are visiting you in your gallery.

5. Keep it short. We find that one-hour is the perfect length. Thanks to artist Nancy Gruskin who was comfortable speaking to strangers, and she shone on the day with her warm personality and demeanor. In the first half hour of the event we had attendees join in droves and it peaked at the 45 minute mark, but a decline at the hour mark. Some people dropped in and left after 10 -15 mins while others actually stayed the entire time. This was a real surprise to me, and it shows that this kind of event is sustainable and fills the gap for the non-local audience. Needless to say, virtual reception should now be a standard offering for every gallery.

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