But not every artist, gallery and form showed to equal advantage in this alternative fair. Not surprisingly, simple two-dimensional works in bright colours came across best. No sculpture or conceptual art was included. Subtle pieces, such as Lucas Arruda’s impressionistic desert-scapes, which seem as much a mood or a state of mind as a physical depiction when you see them in real life, had little impact when viewed remotely.
Besides depth and texture, there are aspects of gallery-hopping that a website is unlikely to replicate. One is serendipity— the sense of wandering between artworks and encountering the unexpected. Another is sociability. Art is a communion between artist and viewer, but galleries and fairs are also places to swap opinions and share enthusiasms.
There are ways to compensate for these inevitable deﬁciencies. As they shut their physical doors, some of the world’s ﬁnest galleries and museums are oﬀering whizzy interactive visits, 360-degree videos and walk-around tours of their collections, all without queues and high ticket prices. One of the best is laid on by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; its tour allows visitors to view its Vermeers and Rembrandts, including the magniﬁcent “Night Watch”, far more closely than would normally be possible. Another standout oﬀering is from the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, which has an even broader collection. On its virtual platform, its paintings, spanning 700 years, appear to be hanging in an open-plan space, seemingly suspended on glass panels, or “crystal easels” as the museum calls them, ideal for close-up inspection.
But such wizardry may be beyond most galleries and artists. For Art Basel, Tracey Emin, a British artist at White Cube, exhibited a heartfelt demand spelled out in icyblue neon: “Move me” (pictured on previous page). At a distance, that is hard.