As we enter our second period of lockdown in England, the arts and how they stay afloat are a cause for concern. With rules involving social distancing and galleries and other venues  facing closure, artists have had to look beyond the possibility of there being a physical  viewing option to present their work and have instead turned to online platforms.  

Exhibiting work virtually online is nothing new, but has until more recently been viewed as  something extra; a practicality to assist previewing or posts to attract attention. These days  there is a considerable difference between an online exhibition and scrolling down your  phone through Instagram or Pinterest.  

There is no denying the impact a physical space has on the overall experience of the audience  when encountering an artist’s work. Robbed of the physical space, it could be said that  presently an artist’s options are considered limited, restricted and have yet to be fully  established in the virtual world. With this new wave of exploring and viewing artwork, there  is a fear that the artist’s voices and effect have been limited and watered down, that the works  have dwindled and become more digestible and with that comes the fear of the work lacking  impact. 

On the other hand, the artist’s role has changed and developed through the means of an online  presence. Technological advancements have given opportunities for artists to manipulate the  way in which audiences view and experience art. 3D generated virtual reality can give the  audience a novel experience. Different types of platforms enable artists to place their  audience in an alternative world, such as through video tours, 3D tours, live radio and video  streaming.  

So how can online exhibitions move in ways to ensure their impact and create further  dialogue through the digital space? The answer to this must surely lie to a large extent with  the curation process, as it is through the actual presentation of their work that artists create  dialogue. A digital platform can become a mere representation or re-enactment of the  physical exhibition with more attention to camera lens, angle, movement and direction  through the exhibits.  

It can also be an invitation to further embrace technology by adopting an avatar and exploring  the exhibit using a VR headset. Such advancements have the effect of encouraging artists to  rethink the presentation of their work and offer audiences the opportunity to experience  something different.  

However, the concern here is not only about how artists have adapted, but how much  audiences are willing to adapt themselves. Being one click away, an online exhibition in  theory provides greater access, freedom from time restraints and is less costly than a more  traditional physical exhibition space. Even so, to the more discerning viewer the inability to employ all the senses and engage more meaningfully with the exhibits will surely be a  hindrance to their overall experience.  

What this amounts to is that the future for the artist rests with their ability to show resilience  and the ability to adapt. One way of demonstrating this is by the increasing use of  technological advancements in order to reach their audience and continually create the means  to engage in meaningful dialogue. In doing so they will open up alternative pathways for  reflection, variation and communication. Ultimately the measure of success rests with the  ability of the art world to negotiate these uncertain times and be continue to be  characteristically resourceful and inventive.