People still struggling to wrap their heads around NFTs, generative AI art, and other new forms of expression might just give up at the idea of collecting experiences as art. The mere mention of the concept elicits questioning, like the title of the panel discussion, “Can you collect experiences?” hosted by VIV Arts, a new sales platform supporting artists and collectors in the experiential art sector, which was held at Christie’s London on Wednesday evening.

At Christie’s, VIV Arts co-founders Carlota Dochao Naveira and Oliva Sartogo, were joined by Ana Ofak, a co-founder of “hybrid” art collective Transmoderna, and Nassia Inglessis, founder of Studio INI, which couples design and scientific research with public engagement through immersive installations. The all-female panel, sadly lacking artist and stage designer Es Devlin due to unfortunate logistics, was all smiles as Nicole Ching, specialist advisor of 20th/21st century art at Christie’s, introduced them.

Related Articles

An Old Master painting showing the baby Jesus held by his mother with his father nearby.

Titian Painting Sets Artist’s Auction Record After Selling for $22.1 M. at Christie’s London

Sotheby’s Shuffles Its Deck with Multiple Promotions and Title Swaps in Europe and Asia 

“If one is able to collect experiences, I can’t imagine anyone discussing this hefty topic better than these women,” she told the 90 or so people in attendance.

Prior to the event, Naveira told ARTnews that experiential art has “existed since the advent of installation art, ‘artist environments,’ ‘happenings’—a term coined by Allan Kaprow in the late ’50s—and time-based performance.” (Naveira and Sartogo were part of the founding team of Miami experiential art center Superblue).

Before the speakers dissected the topic at hand, the room was quickly profiled via a quiz entered by scanning a QR code on a flyer to reveal each audience member’s “artistic persona.” Answering a series of multiple-choice questions led to one of four personality outcomes: “aesthetic enthusiast”; “modern maverick”; social collector”; or “experiences explorer.” When the results came in, a show of hands indicated most people were the latter. Things were off to a good start.

“We launched VIV Arts this year with a mission to support artists creating experiences, and what we mean by experiences is essentially putting audiences at the center of artistic experiences.” Naveira said. “Having them become active participants of the experience instead of being passive viewers of arts.”

Is being a “passive viewer of art” becoming passé or even unacceptable? Naveira would probably argue so, and not just in the field of art. In an email she sent ARTnews prior to the event, she wrote that numerous reports have pointed to the “growing importance of experiences in many luxury and consumer industries.” (A survey released Tuesday by Dotdash Meredith and market research firm Ipsos, for example, found that luxury consumers, particularly Gen Z, value “experience over product.”)

Naveira gave the floor to Ofak. She explained that Transmoderna, which she co-founded with DJ Steffen “Dixon” Berkhahn in 2018, is both an artistic collective based in Berlin and also a small studio comprised of a team of artists, “developers from the computational realm,” engineers, and sonographers. They “explore the possibilities that arise from merging electronic music with computational arts.”

“Transmoderna is moving away from our home in the digital realm into a hybrid of sound imaging and media setup,” Ofak said. “We have tried, uncommonly, to intervene in the scene of clubbing and dance music. When we started, we wanted to break with DJing and introduce something more involved in internet and digital art, meaning introducing VR and AR into dance experiences.”

Carlota Dochao Naveira, Ana Ofak, and Nassia Inglessis at Christie’s London on Wednesday evening.

Does Ofak think there’s a tangible shift in the art world towards more immersive, ambient experiences? “Absolutely,” she told ARTnews after the panel. She described seeing the crowd at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2021 pass by the traditional gallery booths “without taking much notice” of the art, when Transmoderna first showed an installation at the fair.

“In a smaller hall dedicated to digital and experiential art there were several queues meandering around the space, mostly for non-screen-based work, so larger scale installations or VR,” Ofak said. “It was a bit like at the onset on video art being shown in museums – it was a sign to all that the (not so new) domain of computational art had arrived and was here to stay. Museums are slowly exploring the possibilities of integrating experiential art into their exhibitions.”

But can you collect this stuff? In Transmoderna’s case, yes. This is where VIV Arts comes in. The first-ever artwork for sale on the platform is the Berlin-based collective’s Mycoforest, 35 editions of which are available privately for an unspecified price. Naveira told ARTnews that all works listed on the VIV Arts platform are somewhere between $100 and $30,000.

Naveira described Mycoforest as a “screen-based work derived from Transmoderna’s VR installation Terraforming CIR… it’s a digital artwork on a loop,” which was recently exhibited at Centre-Pompidou Metz in France. Post-panel discussion, VIV Arts sent me a link to a viewing room showing the trippy video, accompanied by an electronic soundtrack. Was I propelled to protagonist status in an artistic experience? Not really. It felt like I was watching a video on my laptop and – having been branded an “experiences explorer” – I reverted to type as a passive viewer. According to Ofak, Mycoforest is “about the underground world of mushrooms and how mushrooms, under the harshest conditions, are able to build new worlds.”

Founder of Studio INI, Inglessis, then spoke about physically engaging viewers in her work as a more abstract way for them to “collect” experiences. She showed the audience a video of her installation Disobedience, which was placed in Somerset House’s London courtyard in 2018, when Studio INI represented the Greek Pavilion at the London Design Biennale. It is a 17-meter-long wall fashioned from steel and recycled plastic that moves as people walk through it. Disobedience “challenges our perception of architecture as something static, or emotionally inert,” it reads on Studio INI’s website.

“My research explores the future of our physical world and what it might look like,” Inglessis said. “How might we interact with it as individuals and as a collective in a manner that can converge rather than diverge from our expanded intelligence? In this process emerged new ways of sculpting matter and structures, with a vision that we can look as our physical bodies and architecture as more of an interface and less of a boundary. Disobedience is a wall that’s not actually functioning as a boundary because you can walk through it.”

Inglessis also spoke about Urban Imprint, another kinetic outdoor installation Studio INI made in New York in response to the question, “How do you make an urban environment feel more natural?” The work is a low-hanging ceiling that creates an indent to accommodate the height of the person walking beneath it.

“VIV Arts is paving the way in anticipating and negotiating the forms of our artworks in Studio INI that manifest in the embodied experience across scale and contexts,” Inglessis told ARTnews. “They are raising awareness and understanding of the radically different creative process that governs my practice and explores the capacity of meaningful audience engagement throughout the journey that is integral to the realization of my works.”

VIV Arts told ARTnews it is focused on its first Transmoderna sales but would be “thrilled” to sell works by Studio INI “in the future as the platform develops.” What form Inglessis’ large-scale architectural projects would take on VIV Arts remains to be seen.

Experiential art is gaining traction and immersive experiences are drawing in the crowds around the world, with The Art Newspaper reporting that 100-plus “immersive institutions” have emerged over the last five years. There is obviously a public thirst for a more enveloping style of participation.

“We have been noticing this trend very actively since 2019, when teamLab in Tokyo became the most visited single-artist museum in the world, and when the world saw the explosion of pseudo-artistic experiences like The Museum of Ice Cream, and later the Van Gogh experiences that garnered a lot of attention pre- and post-pandemic,” Naveira told ARTnews.

“Locally in London, Tate Modern is a great example of a major institution that is increasingly betting on experiential art, with Yayoi Kusama – a sell-out experiential art show which has been extended several times over – their recent Yoko Ono exhibit, the Anthony McCall exhibition that just opened, as well as ‘Electric Dreams’ which is due to open in November.”