Gallery Voices: Simmy Swinder Voellmy, Director, Wilde Gallery

November 14, 2023

The Wilde Gallery Director discusses how art is a reflection and extension of our identities, and more, for the Arcual Blog.

What trends are you noticing about how collectors interact with art?

Art continues to be deeply personal, a reflection of and extension of our identities. With so much out there, I think collectors might be doubling down on this relationship to art. With that said, collectors are increasingly engaging with art in ways that reflect broader technological and social trends, whether this be through online marketplaces, socials, or VR and AR exhibitions.

How do you view art collectors' relationship today with technology in comparison to other industries? And, is that shifting?

Art collectors' relationship with technology has traditionally been more conservative compared to other industries. However, this dynamic has been shifting significantly due to a few factors. While the art world was slower to move online compared to other sectors, recent years have seen a surge in the use of digital platforms for viewing and purchasing art. This was partly necessitated by the pandemic, which forced galleries, fairs, and auctions to operate digitally. However, personal relationships still matter and although these platforms might be the first step in connecting a buyer and seller, the relationship will most likely evolve beyond the digital realm.

Another significant adoption, where Arcual plays a pivotal role, is the implementation of blockchain technology to tackle the art world's enduring issues of provenance, authenticity, and resale rights. In jurisdictions where such rights are not legally enforceable, they effectively become privileges.

Finally, of course, there’s data analytics. This ties back to the online sales rooms, primarily those of art fairs, who collect data on what artworks are getting the most views and which artists the most clicks. They then package this and provide it to their exhibitors. By using analytics to predict market trends, institutions and private collectors can make more targeted acquisition decisions. It can also be used to even the playing field, to closely look at the demographic of a collection and make a concerted effort to infuse it with diverse voices.  

What needs to happen for the art world to become more oriented towards championing artists?

For the art world to more effectively champion artists, several shifts are necessary, including structural reforms, the introduction of new practices, and a reevaluation of existing paradigms. The goal is to ensure that artists can live with dignity and consistently benefit from the appreciation of their work's value over time. In this context, artist resale rights are crucial, and Arcual emerges as a vital support for artists by providing tools to implement or enforce these rights. Such rights ensure artists receive a percentage from subsequent sales of their work, thus offering them a sustainable revenue source. I do wonder, however, how this would affect how artists’ markets are made and maintained, and whether they will play a bigger role in actualizing higher price points for their works.

Do you believe that technology can play a large part in facilitating that shift?

Yes, technology can and does play a significant role in facilitating the shift toward championing artists more robustly in the art world. Blockchain technology offers a way to securely track artwork provenance and enforce artist resale rights, providing artists with a share of future sales.

What do you consider the benefits of blockchain technology for the art market?

Blockchain technology enhances transparency, security and efficiency. For example, with provenance tracking, it can provide tamper-proof provenance record for artworks which would help in verifying authenticity and ownership history. Using smart contracts, transactions can be streamlined, eliminating the need for costly intermediaries. It also leads to more liquidity; artworks can be tokenized and ownership can be shared. It does have its downsides, namely the environmental impact*, and the need for standardization. Finally, collectors can use it as a tool to manage their collections. I think we have only begun to scrape the surface of how blockchain technology can benefit the art market.

(*Arcual has embraced an environmentally friendly consensus mechanism known as Proof of Authority (PoA) for its blockchain. Learn more here.)

What is your favourite art fair to explore?

Art Basel Hong Kong holds a special place in my heart, not only for its personal significance but also for the unique cross-cultural experiences it provides. The fair's ability to blend Eastern and Western art (both histories and contemporary practices) indeed creates a vibrant tapestry that reflects a global art dialogue.

As an American with Indian heritage, born in Indonesia, one can imagine why I am deeply drawn to Hong Hong. When I worked as a curator at my space in LA, Four Six One Nine, I was visiting over a dozen fairs annually. One begins to spot trends, patterns, and repeated works.  However, Art Basel Hong Kong has consistently provided a stimulating departure from the familiar.

Which artist(s) are you particularly admiring the work of currently?

My most cherished experiences are with the artists I've collaborated with at Wilde in Basel, especially during the period coinciding with Art Basel. Working with illustrious figures like Marina Abramović, Cornelia Parker, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Per Barclay has been an honor. Each of them brought to our space deeply ambitious and visionary projects. They entrusted their creative conceptions to my care, a responsibility I undertook with great dedication. Through the process of bringing their grand ideas to fruition, I developed a profound connection with each artist. My admiration for their work and their person is profound, rooted in the shared commitment to art that challenges and transcends ordinary limits.

What is coming up next at Wilde gallery?

We are thrilled to announce a major milestone as we usher in the new year: our flagship gallery is relocating to a magnificent historic edifice in the vibrant core of Geneva. Spanning an expansive 1,000 square meters, the new space will boast 'La Petite Librairie' and the 'Anouch Restaurant,' in addition to expansive exhibition spaces. Our Basel gallery continues to host an impressive roster, and anticipation is particularly high for our show coinciding with Art Basel in 2024, featuring the groundbreaking South African artist Kendall Geers. Geers is poised to unveil a project that promises to be a transformative force within a specific narrative of art history.

Learn more about Wilde. Stay tuned for more from Arcual Blog!

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