What have you been doing during this pandemic?
I’ve been reading about business!
What have you been doing during this pandemic? I am looking at the gallery scene, mostly in the US. I have been listening to interviews with people like David Zwirner and Jeffrey Deitch. Reading online magazines: The Art Newspaper, Artnet News, Hyperallergic, Artsy, Artspace. It has been very interesting.
Like many artists, nearly 100% of my planned exhibitions were delayed or canceled. I’m not yet suffering financially, although most artists are. Most galleries are in or about to be in dire straits. Some of the artist-run spaces I know are closing. So are some of the mid-sized spaces. Studio crawls are attempting to go virtual. Museums are shut as tight as a drum!
BUT ART PERSISTS.
Really, it does. The art market is, of necessity, changing. None of us really know what it will look like a year from now.
But here is what I’ve learned so far.
It appears that online sales and online exhibitions will become more important, increasing from 10% of sales to 20-25% of sales in the future. Online sales will never replace the in-person experience. Increasingly galleries will offer special opportunities to collectors, even beyond what they already offer high dollar buyers: things like individual viewing of new exhibitions are already happening in Hong Kong.
Collectors and new artists
Collectors have always bought works before openings, but the private viewing of a completely hung exhibition is a change. Estates will remain the backbone of profits for larger galleries. New artist/new work sales will, as always, vary. Educational programming, publication, crating, the installation will remain important. Art Fairs are hurting. They have been between 25-50% of the annual sales of commercial galleries.
They have provided global exposure and sales. There will be fewer fairs, which everyone says is a good thing. It is likely that fairs will become more localized and will continue to have very strong online viewing rooms. [A viewing room is a highfalutin’ webpage that you must register to see. Some of them really are a step above the average webpage!]
It is predicted that the mid-range galleries will be the most impacted by this downturn. A few I was following are already closing. It is predicted that the small, artist-led galleries will fare better because they can improvise more quickly to meet the market demands.
Prices right now are down somewhat, but not dramatically. Discounts are being sought, but do not appear to be expected beyond what is normal in sales negotiations.
Sales, of course, are down…to the tune of 75-80%.
Functions of an Artist
One of the functions of an art dealer is to develop an artist’s reputation through museum placement, important collector placement, and helping to manage auction prices through contracts with collectors to prevent “flipping.” High auction prices too early can ruin a career.
By the way, did you know that the artists do not receive payment for those huge auction sales you hear about? An auction, generally, is what is called a secondary market sale. A collector or an estate is converting their artwork into profit, they hope. The laws have never been passed that would share some of this profit to the creator of the art.
Auction prices are holding pretty steady. Online sales by the big auction houses focusing on jewelry and furnishings are doing very well. There are some BIG individual sales, but they are the exception. The online auctions are definitely being formed around more modestly priced works.
Museums are hurting. They have lost nearly 100% of their revenue, relying on online museum shop sales and laying off staff, while still having to pay the bills to store and maintain the collections. Humidity and temperature shifts destroy art! So the utilities MUST be paid. The impact of this going forward on the purchase of artworks is likely to be high.
There are still many unknowns. But what is known is this:
Artists will make art.
Galleries need artists.
Collectors will buy art.
Stay Tuned! The times they are a-changin’!
In the meantime, become a collector!