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Art Basel Miami Beach: Q&A with Sebastian Cwilich

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Art.sy president and COO Sebastian Cwilich spent Art Basel’s VIP preview day walking around the fair with Wendi Murdoch, passing celebrities like André Balazs and Chelsea Handler, P. Diddy and his entourage, and designer Tommy Hilfiger. We caught up with Cwilich before his Soho Beach House bash.

Q: How did the Art.sy/Design Miami collaboration come about?

A: Dasha Zhukova thought it would be a great idea to extend the Art.sy platform to include collectible design, given that collectible design can be a more accessible way for people to get comfortable with art. So Dasha introduced Carter [Cleveland] and me to Craig Robbins and Marianne Goebl, and here we are.

Q: How will this collaboration change the experience of the fair?

A: Most importantly, this allows the design enthusiasts and collectors from around the world who can’t make it to Miami to view a substantive portion of the objects at the fair and, if they’re interested, go on to connect with the dealers. For people who are coming to the fair, this allows them to preview the fair and come prepared. Additionally, Art.sy’s functionality allows people in Miami and around the world to read live posts related to Design Miami and the works on view—written by dealers, curators and collectors at the fair.

Q: How has technology changed collecting more generally?

A: It used to be that a collector in New York could walk down to the Soho Gallery Building on West Broadway and get a sense of what was happening in contemporary art. Now, as the art world has become much bigger and much more geographically dispersed, collectors need a better way to find out what’s happening. Online platforms are one great way to do that.

Q: What were the challenges of adapting the fair to an online platform? What have been the greatest benefits of doing so?

A: I think the key is not to adapt the fair to online, but rather to focus on ways we can extend the experience to greater numbers of people. We can’t allow someone to touch the objects online—yet!—but some of the storytelling possible via Art.sy posts, or via filtering technology that allows us to immediately see the 60-plus chairs on view at the fair, are things you can’t do so easily in person.

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