At the start of 2020, no one could have predicted the present global situation or how coronavirus would impact every aspect of daily life. For the art world, it has seen the worldwide temporary closures of auction houses, museums, galleries, exhibitions and art fairs.
The international art market is reliant on real-life interaction at international events – currently an untenable mix. Every industry is struggling with the impact; the luxury sector is predicted to contract by around 20-30%, according to Azur, and the current diamond industry crisis has been further deepened.
For many in the art world, this time to pause and adapt may prove fruitful to modernising the industry. Questions are being asked as to whether the established ‘normal’ is what should be returned to, and whether now is the chance to use technology and new initiatives to provide a dynamic resurgence.
When Art Basel Hong Kong had to cancel their live show, it was instead taken online and works were made available virtually. Art Basel set the trend as the first major cancelled event and others followed, including exhibitors at Tefaf Maastricht who adapted their strategy and offered virtual viewing rooms to clients.
For smaller galleries struggling to keep pace with the demanding schedule of international art fairs, moving online could prove highly beneficial. For art collectors who have previously complained of “fairtigue”, this could also provide some welcome relief. This needs to be met with compromise however – galleries report an average 45% of sales through fairs, according to the latest Art Basel/UBS report.
Innovative online solutions could provide huge e-commerce opportunities for the art industry. According to the Financial Times, online sales for art are currently at 9% of the market share, but interestingly 61% of HNW collectors have cited social media as a starting point to buy art. Online auction sales are also increasingly growing.
While this unexpected situation is highly unwelcome and disruptive to all, the time is available now should the art world want to implement a more technologically-savvy and innovative industry.