Canada’s largest art, design and media university, OCAD University, set out to recreate the excitement of an in-person art auction in a virtual environment.
“We wanted to fuel friendly on-screen competition and set up a space where the auctioneer could engage directly and personally with the bidders — which we couldn’t do on other virtual platforms,” said Bobby Hrehoruk, Manager of Special Projects for OCAD U.
OCAD U designed an auction room where on-screen, muted bidders competed against each other for a spot in the lead bidder box. “The most important interactions in a live auction are between the auctioneer and the audience. In ohyay, unlike other virtual platforms, I could get a sense of each audience member’s comfort level and focus on the task at hand — raising money for a world-class BIPOC art collection,” said Stephen Ranger, Project 31’s auctioneer.
Another key element was maintaining a fast pace throughout the auction. To hold the audience’s attention, Stephen moved through the lots quickly with little lag time. Winning bidders were rewarded with an exploding confetti cannon, as well as cheers and emoji reactions from the audience. “The ebb and flow of reactions — quieting down when Stephen presented a piece and erupting when he declared a winner — kept the energy going,” said Bobby.
The pre-auction gallery spaces, displaying all 51 works from the collection, built anticipation for the main event. OCAD U designer Fernando Ciccotosto integrated a 3D model of a gallery space into ohyay to facilitate serendipitous run-ins and represent the scale of the artworks accurately. “Since our guests had a chance to familiarize themselves with each other and the lots, they came into the auction ready to bid,” said Bobby. “It was incredible to see how quickly they picked up our bidding mechanisms and adapted to the virtual experience.”