Meet the Innovators: Juli Cho Bailer
Juli has curated the Sanji Gallery booth at the forthcoming edition of Art Dubai, together with Micaela Giovannotti, where artworks by Shirin Abedinirad and Michael Wesely will be consigned to be sold through Arcual. We sat down with Juli to learn more about her fascinating journey so far.
1. Tell us about your background in the art world?
I have a BFA in photography and MFA, but being a career artist wasn’t for me. I wanted art to be a rich part of my life, though, which led me to museum work — first at the Whitney Museum in the permanent collection, then the Jewish Museum New York as Collections Manager, and later as Curator of the Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art, focusing on exhibitions. After time off to raise my children, I ventured into deep tech to co-found an AI and blockchain startup I led from 2019 until last year when we brought our product to the market and I left to return to curating.
Screens are ubiquitous in our lives, and digital art is set to become increasingly more visible, which prompted me to form my strategic curation agency, artluxe.io, and work with creatives and technologies to bridge the physical and digital realms. Digital adoption and commerce are widely considered catalysts for economic development and I love working at the intersection of art and tech. But this business would not be fun if it weren’t for the artists, so my approach is centred around the storytelling power of art and the experience of tech. It’s inspiring to help shape strategies for businesses who want to harness this creativity. These are exciting times as global platforms, such as Art Dubai, where I am curating the booth for Sanji Gallery, Seoul, provide space to present mixed-realm artwork for both traditional and digital collectors!
2. What inspired you to work at the intersection of art and technology?
In our era of fakes, supply chain protection is undergoing a significant digital transformation. The art market’s ‘supply chain’ is also circular and developing sustainable solutions were key drivers for me to leap into tech. It’s exciting to see how Arcual is creating solutions for streamlined transactions, immutable provenance, and a decentralised Digital Dossier to safeguard investments for the benefit of all stakeholders. These improvements are set to create a healthier market as well as a greener sector.
3. How do you view the art industry's relationship today with technology in comparison to other industries?
In spite of the NFT bubble, whose initial hype was driven by crypto investors, those disruptive technologies laid the important groundwork for models that the art market is building into its own practices. While luxury brands have made significant tech investments to prepare for a digitally native generation coming into buying power, the art market, with its smaller size and audience, is adapting at a slower pace. Yet, art is meant to last for generations, so future proofing should be a priority. I feel the early attempts at blockchain solutions for art often lacked the important balance of domain expertise and technological readiness to create an excellent product-market fit. We’re now seeing great products in the traditional market along with the onboarding of early users which should drive innovation exponentially.
4. What trends are you noticing about how collectors interact with art?
The art world today truly is global. Major art fairs on several continents require high travel and logistics costs, causing some segments to reflect on how to use technology to present, sell, collect, and store art. Online sales are rising, which would be further enhanced with technologies that help preserve investment value.
I find the hybrid offerings of analog and digital to be the most captivating and most cross-audience, but the digital native generation distinguishes less between virtual and physical, so this will evolve quickly as technology for virtual presentations becomes more sophisticated and scalable.
5. What needs to happen for the art world to become more oriented towards championing artists?
Artists are the beating heart of this ecosystem, so we should always consider their perspective. The art world is less coded than it has ever been, but galleries still play a strategic role in supporting artists and cultivating collectors since many traditional market artists don’t have the time or inclination to create and have to sell their own work. I hope technology will empower artists to work alongside their galleries more closely to raise production capital, authenticate, and enforce contracts and resale rights.
6. Do you believe technology can play a part in facilitating that shift?
A rising generation, shaped by the influence of direct to consumer brands and community centric approaches, is entering the market, so we should soon see an accelerated shift. Digital artists are akin to DTC brands in that they have greater flexibility to connect with buyers both on or off chain, but the artistic creation process differs from selling merchandise. Art creation is inherently more intensive and experiencing great art requires specialised channels to engage audiences meaningfully, making dedicated spaces for such experiences so vital. Because of this, I think the traditional artist-gallery-institution model will remain valuable for the foreseeable future, but tech is already giving artists more control in this relationship and this will only increase.
7. What do you consider the benefits of blockchain technology for the art market?
2023 was the year that proof-of-stake (PoS) and proof-of-authority (PoA) sustainable blockchains facilitated wider acceptance. Beyond driving important new digital art economies, green blockchains are being used to monitor and verify the carbon balances of organisations. My hope is that the art market will become more comfortable with blockchain as it becomes more educated about zero knowledge technology, which protects immutable data and can confirm the underlying information without revealing it — aligning with our market's emphasis on privacy.
8. What is your favourite museum to explore?
Even though my curatorial focus is contemporary, I love to spend hours through historic galleries at the Louvre or the Uffizi, but The Prado is truly a gem because although it’s relatively small, every room is chock full of masterpieces by Velasquez, Goya, El Greco, Bosch, and a visit is never overwhelming.
9. Which artists are you admiring the work of currently?
Naturally, the artists I’m working with for my shows in Seoul, Shirin Abedinirad, and Michael Wesely, whose ultra long exposure still lifes of fading flowers have mesmerised me for years. I’ve been especially moved in the last year at exhibitions of Doug Aitken, Kimsooja, Marina Abramović, El Anatsui, Mickalene Thomas, Gordon Cheung, and Michel Pérez Pollo. I live in Zurich and Switzerland is home to some of my favourite artists: Sylvie Fleury, Claudia Comte, Julian Charrière, Ugo Rondinone, and Pipilotti Rist always make work that touches me!
10. How do you think Arcual's Digital Dossier can be beneficial for both artists and collectors?
Arcual’s Digital Dossier is a museum curator’s dream come true. All documentation surrounding an artwork is made tamper proof before it is sold, creating records for posterity and thus even helping to preserve the artwork’s value, which is why we are implementing it to authenticate the first-ever edition by the conceptual photographer Michael Wesely.
In the context of Art Dubai next month, we're reimagining how we present Shirin Abedinirad's land art installation. Rather than ship a physical exhibition copy to be oddly confined to a booth, we're offering it digitally, accompanied by Arcual’s certificate and dossier with complete instructions to recreate the installation per landscape — whether it’s for the desert or sculpture garden. Collectors have been buying ephemeral work for decades, so this isn’t new, but selling it with an immutable certificate plus dossier is a new model that aligns with our goals to advance a sustainable model for presenting and collecting.
Discover the Sanji Gallery booth during Art Dubai from 1-3 March 2024, curated by Juli Cho Bailer and Micaela Giovannotti. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest art and technology news and more stories from Arcual's community of innovators.