Lockdown sales slump pushes galleries, fairs, and auction houses towards non-traditional territory: the internet.
For art expert Dirk Boll, the art market is on the verge of a “turning point.” He told DW that the COVID-19 crisis had had a “catalytic effect” in transforming the tradition-bound industry, with digitalization moving “at turbo speed.”
Boll is an art historian and one of four presidents, who with managing director Guillaume Cerutti, head the London auction house Christie’s.
Boll recently published a book in German on economic crises and new art markets, in which he analysed the impact of recent economic crises on the art market. With a view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, his book is titled, Was ist diesmal anders? (‘What’s different this time?’).
It was already evident after the first lockdown in spring 2020 that COVID had the art world in its grip, as shown, for example, by the mid-year survey of 795 galleries from around 60 countries.
Conducted by Art Basel and the Swiss bank UBS, the study revealed that gallery sales worldwide had shrunk by more than a third compared to 2019. The mood in the galleries was also somber: around half of those affected feared a further decline in sales.
The new lockdown is likely to fuel this pessimism even further. “The pandemic has presented the art market — and the gallery sector in particular — with some of its greatest challenges,” the study’s director, Irish art economist Clare McAndrew concluded.
Unabated demand for art
The auction market has also suffered, and continues to suffer from the pandemic, albeit to a lesser extent. According to calculations by the French online portal ArtMarket.com, Less than one-fifth of artworks went under the hammer in the auction houses compared to the previous year. Sales even slumped by almost half until August.
“The auction houses have succeeded in continuing their activity to a large extent,” ArtMarket.com managing director Thierry Ehrmann stated on its website. He also said art market prices had “by no means systematically” fallen, as evidenced, for example, by the sale of Giorgio de Chirico’s painting Il pomeriggio di Arianna (1913) for $15.9 million (approximately 13 million euros) at Sotheby’s in New York on October 29, 2020. In fact, he said, demand for masterpieces continued unabated.
So, what does the pandemic mean for the art market? While many art fairs, auctions and exhibitions were canceled because of the lockdown in spring this year, a new start seemed a long way off even in autumn. The end of major art events hit dealers hard, because for many traders, fairs are the most important sales platforms. The industry thus shifted its trading hub to the internet as far as possible. Online galleries sprang up like mushrooms. Art fairs such as Art Basel and Art Cologne opened “online viewing rooms,” to varying degrees of success. Boll explained that those who were already big were also able to invest in new technology faster and on a larger scale.
A 1915 painting by Giorgio de Chirico titled ‘Fear of Waiting’
Online art trade booming
Art buyers and collectors were also contributing towards making the offer more conservative, according to art expert Boll. At digital fair appearances and in online viewing rooms, newer and lesser-known players were having a harder time making themselves visible. As Kristian Jarmuschek , chairman of the Federal Association of German Galleries (BVDG), put it in an interview with DW, “Well-known artists benefit because brands sell better, as we all know!” The losers are smaller galleries that don’t yet have any artist brands on offer, but instead do basic work, like devoting themselves to the development ofyounger and unknown artists.
Before the crisis, the internet was mainly used as a showcase for art. Sales were negligible: of the $64.1 billion in global art market sales last year, according to Artmarket, the online sector accounted for 10%. But in the first quarter of 2020, that share skyrocketed to 37%.
The digital market has already departed from its niche status and become a serious contender, at least in the auction trade. “We expect to sell about half of all our objects via online-only auctions in 2021,” Boll said, adding that auction houses had already significantly raised the value thresholds of their sold objects, which he saw as a sign of buyers’ growing confidence in digital art sales.
With the new lockdown, some dealers’ hopes for 2021 could evaporate. After all, at mid-year, half of the galleries surveyed were still expecting sales to rise in the new year. Meanwhile, Germany’s gallery owners currently have little reason to complain, the BVDG’s Jarmuschek reiterated.
No gallery has yet had to close due to COVID. Rather, he said, the lockdown has benefited traditional gallery work. “We can make time for our customers, who in turn have more time for art.”
Adapted from German by Brenda Haas.
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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.
Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.
1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.
2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party
Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
3. Check out local performers
Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.
4. Have some family fun
The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.
5. Drop off your hazardous waste
The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio
Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.
The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.
“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”
Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.
Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.
“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.
“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”
‘We need a territorial gallery’
The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.
“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”
Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.
The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.
“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.
That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.
“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”
“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.
“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”
Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.
“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.
“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.
“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”
‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery
In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.
The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”
“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”
Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.
“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”
More spaces that can host art are on the way.
Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.
Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.
As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.
“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”
Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”
“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.
“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”