The coronavirus edition of Brand Associates’ annual fundraising art exhibit at the Brand Library is certainly a conversation starter.
What would have been the traditional art opening this weekend — complete with wines, cheese and veggie trays and light music at the iconic library and gallery — will instead take place on computer screens, via Zoom, with any wine and snacks coming self-sourced from our own pantries and fridges. For those ready to partake, the Brand 48 Annual National Juried Exhibition of Works on Paper begins at 2 p.m. today, Sept. 12.
“It’s always really fun. We usually get around 800 people,” said Brand Associates President Debra Thompson, lamenting the change of plans for this year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This year is really different. Through the end of July, we held out hope that we could have an event that was socially distanced and whatnot.”
The Works on Paper exhibit features 108 pieces of art chosen from more than 900 national submissions by juror Dan McCleary, the founder of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Art Division. This year’s artwork reflects the variety of themes experienced throughout 2020: aside from the pandemic, the nation continues to reckon with institutional racism, acceptance of sexual identities and the ecological impacts of pollution and climate change, Thompson pointed out, which is a “clear indication of a desire to grapple with important issues that impact us all.”
“Artists are always using the contemporary experience in their work,” she said. “This year there was quite a lot of topical content, so that should be interesting.”
Online viewers will be treated to a virtual tour of sorts, with an interactive sequence bringing all 108 pieces to our screens, along with explanations of how the artwork was produced and what inspired it. Viewers will be able to navigate a 3D gallery to help replicate the real-world experience.
“I think the virtual opening does pretty good service to what we offer,” Thompson said. “It’s just too bad that we don’t get to have the social aspect of it.”
Luckily for Brand Associates, a nonprofit organization that supports the Brand Library, it had the in-house tools to get to work on such a production. The usual preparers and art handlers who work on setting up the physical gallery also had the skillset for video production and other things necessary to produce a virtual experience. And because artists could now instead transmit high-resolution images of their work instead of shipping it to be handled, the artwork itself is likely to be better preserved.
All the better for a show that began to come together starting in August.
“A lot of energy was gathered and a lot of work put in,” Thompson said. “During the same time period put into the physical show, I think the staff worked just as hard if not harder on the virtual show, and we’re really happy with the result of that.”
As the pandemic closed one door, Thompson admitted that another one may have opened. Last year, when the Huntington Library embarked on its centennial celebration, the institution pledged to ramp up its online educational offerings and displays of artwork, to help bring what the Huntington Library offers to those around the world who may have an internet connection, but not the means to travel to Southern California.
Thompson said this same idea can hopefully bring this exhibit to a wider audience from those who usually visit regionally.
“We think that this is a way to not only get our name out there, but also to get more people to see the artwork,” she said. “Some sort of visual experience will probably be a part of every show now, as an adjunct to our physical space.”
Those interested in registering for the opening webinar at 2 p.m. today can register at zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_yxMt4Ia6SDmdL59tAeqSBw. After today, those interested can view the exhibition at brandlibrary.art through Friday, Oct. 30.
“We do hope to return to the world of physical exhibits soon,” Thompson said, “but as we’ve explored more of the virtual space, we’re finding there are more opportunities that we’re excited to explore for the future.”