Beatriz Esguerra: Redefining the Art Gallery

March 28, 2020

28 Mar 2020 - 9:36 PM
Lilian Contreras Fajardo
El Espectador
View original article here

In the year 2000 Beatriz Esguerra opened a gallery space to exhibit the work of the artists she represented; for the last two decades, she has adapted to the changes that the Internet has offered to the public. 

Beatriz Esguerra opened her art gallery in Bogota in the year 2000 with the purpose of promoting the work of contemporary artists. It was a time in which art criticism in Colombia was very important and the gallery was a fundamental physical space for observing an artist’s work. People included going to a gallery and art exhibitions as part of their agenda — back then, traffic still allowed them to attend events after work before going home.

Esguerra, an expert advisor for the buying and selling of artworks, and a curator,  inaugurated her space for exhibiting the work of the artists she represents.

“Back in 2000, the concept of a gallery as a space where exhibitions where held and which people attended, was still alive; there simply weren’t as many events and activities being held in Bogota as there are today,” the gallerist recalls.
A few years after opening Beatriz Esguerra Art, a friend suggested to the art historian that she create her own website, which he would manage for the gallery. It was one of the first artistic spaces (in Colombia) to have its own digital platform, a format to which other important industries had attempted, such as the movies, music, and even the media. 

“There was a certain rejection towards that (technology) in the art world, and that’s no longer possible, we cannot avoid it. There are plenty of galleries that work only virtually. That isn’t our situation, however, because we use the tools and incorporate them into our way of functioning. We cannot deny that the world has changed” she maintains.

That is why Beatriz Esguerra doesn’t sit at her desk waiting for people to walk into the gallery. Instead, she and her team plan a marketing and advertising strategy that include both physical and virtual spaces. They deliver exhibitions to the internet, social media and to people’s mobile devices allowing the public to become “prosumers” of information (because they both produce and consume). 

She doesn’t pretend to replace the involvement someone may have with an artwork while observing it live. She is aware that a virtual experience might take away the “aura” (a quality that is only conceived when one observes an authentic piece in person, not a reproduction): this is something that art historian Walter Benjamin mentioned often, because it changes the aesthetic experience. However, acknowledging the  new ways in which human beings relate to each other, with art there is little option other than to adapt in order to avoid “dying on 86th St.” (A reference to closing the gallery located on 86th St in Bogota)  if one doesn’t evolve with the times.

She is aware that her audience has aged, and that new buyers and collectors don’t necessarily have to go to the gallery in order to buy an artwork. Maybe they already know the artist, or have seen the artwork in another space, such as an art fair. An art fair is the perfect place to view and purchase art, because like a shopping mall, you can see and compare works and prices. 

“Today everything is seen on the internet, so galleries also need to have a virtual presence”, she says. Esguerra mentions that because in Colombia “the press doesn’t do press anymore”, and because art criticism has lost its place and impact, she decided to learn social media and digital marketing in order to engage new buyers: like 30 year old bankers who consume information and shop mostly online, for example. 

If someone wasn’t able to make it to the opening reception of a show, it isn’t a problem, because she can recreate the show virtually so that anyone interested can tour it, see the work in detail, and find out about estimated prices. She also creates a Virtual 3D tour of the space, which helps her take the actual gallery show out into the world. 

On social media, she generates publicity and publishes short, clever narrations that go with this new digital language through the use of hashtags and Instagram stories. She is also up to date with the global conversations that are being had, such as Women’s International Day, in order to organize an exhibition and foster her artists through them. 

All of this allows her to reach more prospective buyers because, if 100 people may attend an opening, 1,000 may log on to, not including those who view her artists on Artsy and other virtual platforms. 

“Everything is aimed at sales, because we have to pay the rent. This is an art gallery, not a museum. It is a commercial business where we promote artists and advise collectors and buyers in the most professional way possible”, she concludes.