David Zwirner Hires a Millennial Social Media Influencer to Reinvent Its Online Sales Operation

The dealer compared the gallery's website to a "sixth gallery space"—and has brought on Elena Soboleva to lead it.

Elena Soboleva, David Zwirner's first Online Sales Director. © Gesi Schilling. Image courtesy of David Zwirner.

If online art sales are truly the next frontier for galleries, then why not staff gallery websites like any other physical outpost? That seems to be the logic behind David Zwirner’s latest hire. The mega-gallery has brought on millennial social media whiz Elena Soboleva as its first-ever online sales director.

In an industry that has been notoriously slow to innovate, the deep-pocketed gallery has recently taken a leading role in developing digital initiatives and thinking strategically about how to grow its business online. Within the past year, it has launched an online viewing room and a podcast. Zwirner recently told the Wall Street Journal that 30 percent of clients buy works “solely on the basis of emailed images,” while a gallery representative estimates that three to five percent of sales now are conducted completely digitally.

With Soboleva’s appointment, the gallery is hoping to expand that figure.

“The digital space is a natural extension of the gallery’s storefront,” Soboleva—who, with 13,900 Instagram followers, is no stranger to making an impact online—said in an email to artnet News. “The art world is growing online with galleries and auction houses realizing the value of digital in reaching a vast global audience and having a better understanding of their collectors… In the current era, a robust online program and dedicated strategy is essential in the art world and will only continue to increase in significance and scope.”

Rather than focusing on securing individual sales, Soboleva will be tasked with optimizing the gallery’s online sales operation as a whole. According to the gallery, she will curate and manage the online viewing room, a password-protected part of David Zwirner’s website where clients can inspect high-resolution images of artworks and explore themed digital presentations. Her role will also extend to working with senior staff and artist liaisons to optimize the gallery’s online presence across the board.

In an emailed statement to artnet News, David Zwirner likened the viewing room to his sixth gallery space. “Historically, when we open a new gallery, we bring in new senior staff to direct and manage the space,” he explained. “They then work lockstep with our existing team to shape the programming to be suited to and successful within that particular setting, while also aligning with the global programming. Elena’s role will follow the same approach.”

With a background in contemporary art and economics, Soboleva started her career at Artsy in 2012, first as a contemporary art specialist and collector relations manager and later as lead curator of Artsy’s special projects.

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