Bricks and mortar galleries are so last century. Or so it seems as yet another gallery owner, Iain Dawson, closes his physical space in favour of selling through pop-up shows, art fairs and online.
Dawson opened his eponymous Sydney gallery in Windsor Street, Paddington, in 2008 and moved to Oxford Street in 2010. He says the high rent on Oxford Street, despite reduced foot traffic and many empty shops, precipitated his decision to close last weekend.
But of equal importance was a sense the business was changing and that dealers needed to change with it. Dawson estimates that at least half his sales happen without the buyer seeing the physical artwork – he deals mostly in the under $10,000 price bracket – and for his final show, he says, “every single sale was initiated online’’.
He will put the $8000 a month he saves in rent towards pop-up shows, the first of which will be held at a space in Mary Place, Paddington, in June and the second in Hong Kong, as well as art fairs and through his website. He will show at affordable art fairs in Singapore and Melbourne this year.
Dawson is following in the footsteps of two contemporary art dealers from Melbourne, Karen Woodbury and Tristian Koenig, who have adopted a similar model.
The trend is likely to continue if offshore movements are any indication. Another Melbourne dealer, Bill Nuttall from Niagara Galleries, who has been in the trade for 33 years, says many of his American and European colleagues sell only through art fairs now.
“The one-person show every four weeks costs a lot of money,’’ Nuttall says. “There could end up being a lot fewer exhibitions and more hustling around. Not everyone will want to do that, but it seems to be the way the world is moving.’’