With the help of Paddle8, the Armory Show goes online, and gives art fans a new point of entry

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Paddle8 handled the Armory Show's online presence ()
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The Armory Art Show and the attendant shows that make up Armory Art Week is a giant warren of booths, and unlike an exhibit at a museum, there's no educational element really; for anyone less than completely plugged into the art world it can be hard to figure out what's going on.

“We live in an age of visual and material excess,” said Alexander Gilkes, one of the cofounders of startup digital company Paddle8. “It can be a very intimidating and cluttered world to navigate from the outside.”

And so his company, an online art marketplace that launched last year and which allows its members to browse and buy art from more than 200 galleries around the world, joined forces with the Armory organizers to create an online portal for the show.

Through March 18, Paddle8’s Armory Show website gives those who sign up access to works presented by 120 of the international exhibitors who participated in last week’s show—or whatever hasn't been sold yet—as well as a clutch of artworks presented exclusively online. The collaboration with Paddle8 marks the first time in the Armory's history that it has included an online component.

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The Armory's new managing director Noah Horowitz served terms at the Serpentine Gallery in London but, also, at the online-only VIP Art Fair, so it was perhaps not a surprise that the Armory would seek a virtual extension.

It was Paddle8's collaboration with the Nada Miami Beach art fair that sparked the idea for the Armory collaboration; Paddle8 will be handling the web presence of Nada Cologne in April. 

"We had a very condensed time to reach out to galleries," Gilkes said, "but we ultimately managed to get about half of all the Armory's exhibitors from modern and contemporary on board this year. We travelled to international galleries as well, with a particular focus on reaching out to galleries in the Nordic countries, with great success." 

The site went live six days before the fair opened, giving a broad range of collectors near and far early access to the show’s offerings. The new virtual dimension extends the art fair’s parameters both geographically and conceptually; collectors who were unable to make it to New York for the show could browse from the comfort of home, while the site’s various "editorials," or thematic columns on this year's Nordic focus, lent a curatorial aspect to the fair, granting users the chance to dig deeper into the background of artworks and artists through the inclusion of show-specific videos and dossiers.

“We want as best as possible to encourage emerging talent and galleries by their inclusion on Paddle8,” Gilkes said. “Our exhibitions help bring interesting new works on the platform. We have to be agnostic in that respect and the galleries themselves have complete carte blanche as far as what they include on the site.”

GIlkes said he's been happy with this collaboration.

“The thing we really love is getting back into the design [of the platform]," Gilkes said. "We hope to be able to continue developing our curatorial aspect and be able to devote significant time to the development of our dossiers.”

He hinted that Paddle8 would be doing more virtual extensions with local art shows, but pressed for details, he demurred.

"One collaboration is never enough," was all he would say.