“The words turn old in the mouth already”, German Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930 – 2017) said in times of falling Berlin wall. A similar situation we experience now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation of yesterday can be totally different tomorrow afternoon. And yet the virus did not reach the US in its full power.
By far it is too early to assume about the impact of COVID-19 on the art-market. For sure, due to COVID-19 the art-world will change and become new structures. Once more the global diseases shows, threats like this can only be challenged together. It is a wishful thinking of a few, that one country by itself can stop the whole development. The once who had this idea 2 weeks before, woke up and are faced now with the cruel reality of the virus. Social contacts and communication are necessary and getting more necessary. But it might change from the real to the virtual, more clean and safe world of the internet, at least until global virus-attacks are appearing here. Until then, all business sectors that can use tech-solutions will benefit from the recent crisis and their effects. ART Basel Hong-Kong as a virtual art-fair with limited entrance proofs, that it is working and collectors accept their phone as a tool to buy art. This signal from Asia is important for the art-world. Explicit, a signal from Asia is encouraging, not more from Paris, London or New York. This weekend Art-Basel Hong-Kong, that the galleries in their online-spaces have stable turnovers. Even sales up to 1 Mio. US Dollar and higher are done virtually. It seems that millennial-collectors waited for the chance to buy art from their couch, which they had before, but in times of global lock-down there is no other chance.
Therefore art business online-auctions and platforms as artsy will increase their activities and will win huge market-shares. As well it is easier and cheaper for artists to present their works with galleries. At least the huge market segments of many transactions with a single value below 50.000 Euro will benefit. Online-Openings and virtual guided tours will replace the tradition of the vernissage, opening-ceremonies and life-artist talks, where the success is measured in number of participants and of course on spot sales. But an artist can’t live and pay bills from likes on instagram. Maybe likes and shares on social media will replace the role of exhibitions abroad in the CV of artists. Now when more and more museums and galleries and even Art Basel 2020 are offering their virtual tours, the increasing importance of the internet in art-trade will remain and be stronger. We are aware that the visual impression of a photo on our smartphones or at our computers will not be the same like seeing the original artwork. And no online-photo can replace the atmosphere of seeing an artwork, which had been made by the hands of a famous artist, had been created by the artist.
As well important is to check what is happening on the other side of the market, on the side of collectors and art-buyers. In times where banks and investment companies can invent unlimited money, it should be possible to heal the economic damages caused by COVID-19. It is possible to support tourism and transport sector, small and medium sized companies. And it would be possible to support artists, as Germany does it with guarantees as well as accepting postponements of tax-payments. But this is not resolving the problem of lack of liquidity and cash-flow in the middle and lower ranges of art-world. Nowadays it would be necessary that museums document what is going on these weeks or months, in buying art now. With an additional budget, museums could buy their own “Corona-Collection”. As well it would support artists over the financial crisis.
But we have to take in consideration, that more governments will take advantage from the recent situation and cut cultural budgets, because the money is needed elsewhere. Yes, I am talking about the time after COVID-19, when the medical systems are repaired. We have to demand all governments worldwide on all levels, from local to international, to support much stronger the cultural sector as theatre, concert-halls and visual art.
Facing the developments of the last decades, the private art-collections will increase in its meaning for the sector. And here is a big chance for galleries to change their business-model. The gallery-owner of the future will be less artist and mate of the creatives, administrating their objective lives, he and she will be more art-advisors and consultant at the side of the collector. He will help the collector to place the right investment, to figure out the artists he should know, to select to filter and to propose. Private collectors with money will avoid crowds of people more than ever, therefore the individual close contact between gallery and client, which makes buying art as an experience, will be the successful model. In times of global threats, trust and confidence are very important in business, especially in art-investment. But to build up confidence, nearness and discussions are mandatory. Surely we can assume, that due to the financial crisis following after the Corona-Virus, private collectors might slow down with their art-investment, related to prices as well as in terms of amounts or rating of artworks and artists. But art-trade will continue and grow.
Never before in history of mankind globally, art is blooming as much as today. And never had been so many artworks traded like nowadays. Now in selling art, we should proof flexibility and virtual and real nearness to the clients, the collectors.
Painting: “The Spell” by Radu Rodideal, Bucharest 2018, 120 x 80 cm, oil on canvas
The original article bv Thomas Emmerling was published on March 22nd, 2020 on https://thomasemmerling.blogspot.com