Art and the Internet: How Zephyr Projects Is Making Fine Art Accessible Online
By Gabriela Barkho
On a recent muggy Wednesday evening in Brooklyn, I went to the launch of Zephyr Projects, a new type of “emerging art platform,” at Kinz + Tillou, a Clinton Hill brownstone that operates as both gallery and living space for private art dealer Michelle Tillou. Guests moved freely through the residential space in the style of a cocktail party, celebrating the launch of up-and-coming Zephyr artists André D. Wagner, Bryan Meador, and Hannah O’Brien, as well as Nicole Patel, Catherine Pearson, and Ellen Hanson.
Founded in 2015 by Gabrielle Greenberg, an independent art advisor, curator and avid analog photographer, Zephyr Projects is described as “a new breed of art platform with a bifold mission to advocate for emerging artists online and ‘offline’ with a focus on demystifying the process of collecting for the next generation of art patrons.”
This means forgoing the long-guarded, gate-keeping structure of a traditional gallery, and starting with a fresh slate of authentic curation.
“I can’t help but feel disappointed when people want to collect art solely as an investment. It’s nothing new, but with the rise of clickbait culture on the Internet and art auctions making mainstream headlines on the regular, that approach has become so normative,” Greenberg told me. She explains that the long-standing sensationalism of auctions and “investment collectors” goes against what she believes is her role in the art world.
“I’ll always strive to work with collectors who are interested in supporting the artists they admire, people who are compelled to live alongside the art that they love,” Greenberg explained. “The sale of art by emerging artists has a direct impact on the lives of those artists, and I feel a strong conviction to bring that kind of patronage back to the forefront.”
With this mission, Zephyr Projects wants to present a forward-thinking model of artist representation, prioritizing the needs of artists in the digital age, which has become a hotly-debated topic since the rise of social media.
“One of my main objectives in founding Zephyr is to change my generation’s perception of collecting art,” Greenberg said. “Social media has become an empowering tool for emerging artists, inviting the public to virtually engage with their creative practices.”
This is especially true for platforms such as Instagram, Greenberg explained, which allow us “to curate a feed that reflects our taste and virtually ‘collect’ artists whose work we admire.”
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to move beyond distant admiration to become patrons of these artists, especially when they’re not represented by a major gallery.
“It is my goal to bridge this gap between artists and their potential collectors,” Greenberg said.
One of Zephyr launch’s represented artists, Hannah O’Brien, whose work appeared at the launch, emphasized that for artists her age, using the web has only enhanced their craft, “The Internet to me is another tool aka medium for making art,” she said.
“At the end of the day, I’m all about accessibility,” Greenberg told us. “When I was working full-time at Howard Greenberg Gallery, I dedicated myself to making the gallery and its artists accessible to admirers near and far through social media, regardless of whether that access translated to sales.”
And that mission is continuing with Greenberg’s new venture. “With Zephyr, that same passion gives me momentum, with one distinct difference—there will always be affordable art available by each of the emerging artists I work with.”