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The stop-start year in art collecting – Financial Times



“I’ve never worked so hard without moving.” So says Lucie Kitchener, chief executive of London’s Masterpiece fair, summing up the art market in 2020. Covid-19 and its shutdown of mass events for most of the year meant that Kitchener was one of dozens of art fair organisers forced to move their longstanding editions online. The art world was shocked when Art Basel Hong Kong became the first fair to migrate in March but such dramatic decisions soon became inevitable outcomes through the year. Gallery shows, auctions, sale previews and talks programmes all turned virtual too. 

End-of-year numbers have yet to be finalised, but data from Pi-eX show that for the top three auction houses — Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips — public sale totals were down 31 per cent in the year to December 9, having already fallen 17 per cent for the same period last year. The decline looked to be much worse earlier in the year though and the 2020 total of $6.9bn is slightly ahead of where it was during the last deep-recession year of 2009.

“The 2020 crisis in the art market has very much been an operational crisis — how do you sell art with limited ability to showcase it live ahead of a sale? It is clear that without the internet, the whole auction business would have come to a standstill,” says Christine Bourron, chief executive of Pi-eX.

Art market analysts expect the gallery sector to have fared worse, predicting revenue falls nearer 40 per cent as the loss of art fairs in particular dented business. 

In their place came the “OVRs”, or online viewing rooms, which now, with their increasing frequency, can inspire feelings of dread. Scrolling through sometimes hundreds of gallery pages with dozens of works on each has proved to have limited appeal, though dealers are grateful to have some sort of sales platform for their works. Artists too have at least had a reason to keep going, notes the industry podcast editor Charlotte Burns, as most of their other viewing channels — including the coveted museum shows — have been stop-start. The Italian dealer Massimo De Carlo described OVRs as “almost crucial to survival” this year.

Christie’s Hong Kong
Christie’s Hong Kong © Dave Production House

Survival is not to be sniffed at. The conservative art market suddenly had to embrace the internet and worked hard to produce alternatives that arguably make for a healthier future. Lapada, the Association of Art and Antiques Dealers, began to teach its generally older members how to use social media while contemporary galleries, mostly more au fait with digital delivery, started to remove some of the barriers to entry that had been preserved for too long. Dealers are now in the minority if they don’t post at least a price range for their work on an online fair, something that would have been unthinkable just a year ago. Collaborations that would also have been unimaginable — such as auction houses offering their digital platforms and physical spaces to art fairs — also began to emerge this year. 

In the interludes outside of full lockdowns, a hybrid model of online exhibitions complemented by real-life shows has captured imaginations and injected some life back into the individual galleries. “We didn’t want to cancel — we’re not a mass physical event in one venue — it was a question of how to adapt,” says the gallerist Stephen Ongpin, chairman of London Art Week, one of the first events to test a clicks-and-bricks event in July. 

In the mean time, the high costs of operating at dozens of temporary events around the world disappeared completely, while those in the market with an environmental conscience have been able to rest easier. Awareness of the world outside has also changed market behaviour with movements such as Black Lives Matter helping to prompt tangible beginnings of a more just and diverse art world. 

The conservative art market has had to embrace the internet

Supply was understandably down this year as would-be sellers waited for a better time. But demand for art, while suffering a brief blip as the pandemic’s realities hit hard in late March, initially returned with a vengeance. During the many lockdowns in the first half of the year, sellers noted a trend that the wealthy — unable to spend on lavish meals or splashy holidays — turned instead to redecorating their homes, including with art.

The impact was felt at all levels of the market: Lyon & Turnbull, an auction house in Edinburgh, recorded nearly 1,400 bidders at a decorative arts and design auction in April, double those registered at its equivalent in-person sale six months previously. At the highest end of the scale, bidders and the market’s all-important sellers responded well to the new and sparkly live-streamed evening sales at the big-name auction houses.

In late June, Sotheby’s tested its slick technology first and sold $363.2m of art in a few hours. Christie’s followed suit a couple of weeks later, with a clunkier system but an even better result of $420.9m. Individual hits included $84.6m for a Francis Bacon triptych at Sotheby’s — the highest public price of this year. Paul Donovan, chief economist of UBS global wealth management, compared the pent-up demand with April’s reopening of the Guangzhou branch of the luxury chain Hermès, which reportedly registered $2.7m of sales in just one day.

Francis Bacon’s ‘Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus’ (1981) sold for $84.6m — the highest public price of 2020
Francis Bacon’s ‘Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus’ (1981) sold for $84.6m — the highest public price of 2020

Such momentum didn’t last at auction all year, not least because the summer’s optimism that the worst of the pandemic was over proved misplaced. By mid-December, and with a significantly slimmed-down staff, the auction houses’ greatest hits proved more at the “easier to access day sale price points” of between $200,000 and $1.2m said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art. Consequently, the auction houses have fed the market more frequently — with wares ranging from designer sneakers to art deco bathtubs and prime paintings from struggling museums — and have managed to stem some of the flow. A high proportion of guarantees has also helped keep the public appearance of top-value works on the market, while private sales, we are told, have been gung-ho. 

The pandemic hasn’t gone away and the art market’s eventual shape will probably involve more bloodletting in the coming months. But, for now, its participants — many of whom found imaginative solutions when forced to follow unforeseeable extrinsic events — can allow themselves a festive pat on the back for getting through so far.

Follow @FTLifeArts on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first. Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or wherever you listen

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Union Gallery highlights student art with two new exhibitions – Queen's Journal



In an emerging digital environment, artistic productions across the globe have moved onto our computer screens and iPhones. Despite digital restrictions, however, Union Gallery managed to keep the spontaneous energy of film and the art of sculpture alive in its two virtual exhibitions, Lens/Visions and Growing ; pains.

On Nov. 12 and 13, Lens/Visions, a virtual screening of 11 short films created by Queen’s students and recent graduates was streamed on Facebook Live. The amalgamation of creative projects ranged from themes of environmentalism to romantic relationships, and varied in terms of film approaches, showcasing the breadth of creativity at Queen’s.

The production was curated by Roy Zheng, Union Gallery curatorial assistant, who introduced the films and led a Q&A session following the screenings. This collaborative space where viewers could actively engage with artists created a real sense of community and proved how impactful film can be in the midst of global unrest.

The films were organized into two guiding themes, with ‘Mobile Lens’ on the first day and ‘Critical Visions’ on the second. The films of ‘Critical Visions’ encompassed the more palpable themes of isolation and unrest, which carried a heavier tone compared to films in the ‘Mobile Lens’ collection.

James P. Hoban’s Dinner was an emotionally tense six minutes, expertly shot in a single take. The short film revolved around a young couple struggling to sit down for dinner, as sounds of violence and destruction were present outside. Though dialogue was minimal, the film captured the existential fear and chaos around us as we struggle to maintain normality.

Other notable productions included Ming Winx and Siyang Hu’s Lahu in the Clouds, which depicted the Lahu peoples living in the high mountains of China’s Yunnan Province. The cinematography and imagery were particularly breathtaking, transporting viewers to a completely different cultural landscape.

Winx and Hu’s poetic documentary juxtaposes Nanpo—a quiet paradise—with the spread of COVID-19 around the rest of the world. It specifically emphasizes the relationship between contemporary Chinese ethnic minorities and nature. Undertones of the pandemic were present in multiple films, both explicitly and covertly.

After the festival screening on Facebook Live, Lens/Visions was transformed into an on-site exhibition at the Union Gallery in the Project Room.

In addition to Lens/Visions, Union Gallery also displayed Growing ; pains, which the Gallery described as a portrayal of “the oftentimes painful journey of growth through whimsical and vulnerable larger-than-life sculptures.”

Growing ; pains featured the work of Hannah Gommerman, who is a third year BFA student at Queen’s studying sculpture and painting. Her work is described as interactive, and at times humorous, bridging the poetic with the often uncomfortable and funny reality of opening up.

Gommerman’s sculpture Heart Strings required viewers to physically engage with an oversized geometric heart, folding the sculpture open to reveal inner details. It was a profound exercise on deepening human relationships and the hard truths buried under layers of emotional protection.

Both exhibitions displayed the talent of young artists in the Queen’s community, captivating audiences both virtually and in-person. The innovative work in Lens/Visions and Growing ; pains reminds us that deep connection can be catalyzed in varying ways—allowing us to reflect on our own unpredictable emotions.

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'This is too much': Art shows children's struggles during pandemic, says researcher – CTV News



A collection of children’s drawings made during the pandemic illustrates the mental toll the pandemic is taking on Canadian youth, says the researcher behind a project analyzing their artwork.

Many of the submissions by kids and teenagers on depict people alone, haunted by shadowy spectres, or worse, their own thoughts.

Collectively, the images paint a stark picture of how the trials of young life under lockdown could shape the next generation, says Nikki Martyn, program head of early childhood studies at University of Guelph-Humber.

While the study is still underway, Martyn said initial observations suggest that coming of age during the COVID-19 crisis can create an emotional maelstrom during a critical period of adolescent development.

Being a teenager is tough enough at the best of times, she said, but finding your place in the world while stuck at home has left many young people feeling like they have no future to look forward to.

“The saddest part for me … is that kind of loss of not being able to see through to the other side,” she said.

“There’s so much pain and so much struggle right now that I think needs to be shared and seen, so that we can support our youth and make sure they become healthy adults.”

Since September, Martyn’s team has received more than 120 pieces from Canadians aged two to 18, submitted anonymously with parental permission, along with some background information and written responses.

Martyn marvelled at the breadth of creative talent the project has attracted, with submissions ranging from doodles, sketches, digital drawings, paintings, pastels, photos and even one musical composition.

Researchers circulated the call for young artists at schools and on social media. While the collection includes a few tot-scribbled masterpieces, Martyn said the majority of contributors are between the ages of 14 and 17.

As the submissions trickled in, she was struck by the potent and sometimes graphic depictions of adolescent anxiety, despair and isolation.

Recurring themes include confined figures, screaming faces, phantasmic presences, gory imagery and infringing darkness.

Some images contain allusions to self-harm, which Martyn sees as a physical representation of the pain afflicting so many of the study’s participants.

Just as unsettling are the words that accompany the images. Some artists transcribed the relentless patter of pandemic-related concerns that pervade daily life, while others expressed sentiments like “I’m broken,” “this is too much” and “what’s the point?”

Martyn said many participants wrote of struggling to keep up in school, while some were dealing with family problems such as job loss, illness and even death.

Many of these feelings and challenges are common across age groups, Martyn noted. However, while adults are more accustomed to the ups and downs that life can bring, young people are less likely to have fostered the coping skills to help them weather a global crisis.

A coalition of Canadian children’s hospitals has warned that the pandemic is fomenting a youth mental-health crisis with potentially “catastrophic” short- and long-term consequences for children’s wellbeing and growth.

This would be consistent with research from previous outbreaks suggesting that young people are more vulnerable to the negative psychological impacts of quarantine, including increased risk of post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and behavioural problems, according to an August report by Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

An online survey of 1,300 Ontario children and young adults last spring found that nearly two-thirds of respondents felt that their mental health had deteriorated since COVID-19 hit, with many citing the abrupt end of school, disconnection from friends and uncertainty about the future as significant stressors.

Lydia Muyingo, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Dalhousie University, said when she looks through the images in the gallery, she can see how these concerns are confounding the typical turmoil of being a teenager.

Adolescence is a time for young people to figure out who they are through new experiences, interests and social interactions, said Muyingo.

This transition tends to bring about intense emotions, she said, and the pandemic has exacerbated this upheaval by replacing familiar anxieties about fitting in with fears about mortality.

Muyingo said she’s encouraged to see that the project is giving young people an outlet for these difficult feelings they may not even be able to put words to.

She encouraged adults to keep an eye out for children’s silent struggles, perhaps setting an example by sharing their own vulnerabilities.

“I think parents are sometimes scared of talking about dark themes, but the reality is that kids know a lot more than we think,” she said. “I think art like this can be used as a tool to communicate that it’s OK to feel this way.”

Martyn said the study has given her hope for what a future led by the quarantined generation could look like, because while pain pervades many of the illustrations, there are also symbols of resilience, connection and compassion.

“One of my visions from the very beginning of this was to have this as an art exhibit in a gallery, and to be able to go and be enveloped by it, have it around us and fully experience that lived idea of what children in Canada experienced.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

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Art is having a virtual birthday party, a 'buffet' on Saturday – Regina Leader-Post



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Dunlop director Alyssa Fearon encourages experiencing these events, which are free admission, “just to see the format.”

“Everything that we’re doing right now in this COVID era is very experimental, and this is very much part of that. So I like that the heart of it is still there, even though it can’t take place in person,” said Fearon.

Robert Filliou lights the cake at Art’s 1,000,010th Birthday Celebration in Aachen, Germany in 1973. Photo: Undated handout courtesy Vancouver Sun

Art’s Birthday Buffet has four main menu items — or maybe three, plus dessert.

— From 2 to 3 p.m., Clive Robertson (Kingston, Ont. artist, critic and curator) and Craig Leonard (Halifax artist and teacher) will discuss Filliou’s impact on shaping artists collectives, spaces and alternative practices.

That’s streaming live on the Dunlop Art Gallery’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

— From 7 to 9 p.m., “Every Possible Place” features various artist performances. It includes Jeff Morton, Sbot N Wo (experimental musicians/married couple WL Altman and Helen Pridmore), Jon Vaughn, Laura Kavanaugh, Ian Birse, Hilarey Cowan and Ian Campbell.

That’s streaming live on Neutral Ground’s Facebook and YouTube, and at 91.3 FM CJTR. Ernie Dulanowsky (also known as Pulsewidth) is hosting the broadcast.

— From 9:30 to 11 p.m., there’s karaoke on Zoom. Sing along to cover songs and see videos by artists including YGretz, Kablusiak, Lucien Durey, respectfulchild, Peter Morin, Josie Whitebear, Erroll Kinistino, Piper Burns and People Tanning. Sean Dunham is hosting karaoke and there will be prizes. Register in advance through

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