Sunday, January 24, 2021

Art market: forecast for 2021

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as a predictable year. But as we all try to make sense of a changed world, here’s a look at how the slowdown in art market sales, the drought of fairs, and online mass transfer will play out over the next 12 years. next months.

Sales in the art market in 2020 appear to have fallen by at least a third in the industry, with galleries doing the most. The key to 2021 will be whether art fairs bounce back. In 2019, these temporary high-octane events represented on average 45% of gallery sales. Come 2020, they’ve been wiped out.

Predicting the return of these global gatherings is a Sisyphus task – they appear to be permanently in about six months. Some, like Art Dubai, are sticking to their knitting and planning to open in their usual March slot. The most popular time for a return comes a bit later in the spring, with the postponement Art Basel Hong Kong and Tefaf Maastricht launch of the calendar in May.

The two exhibition organizers offered digital alternatives in 2020 with online viewing rooms, but it seems telling that is not the preferred route enter the new year. While these vastly improved websites will continue to support such events and were better than nothing in 2020, they have run their course in their current forms.

Frieze Los Angeles VIP opening in February © Casey Kelbaugh

The question is whether spring is too early for a full-scale fair – and my prediction is so. How and when the vaccines will be deployed are still unclear and it seems unlikely to me that we will all be jumping on planes once a week by then, if ever. There is a valid point of view that fairs simply won’t come back as they were, as they have already proven to be too long and expensive for many, even before the pandemic. As in other industries, most of the art market works from home, or at least from our hometowns, and we have found other ways to do business.

Collectors say the time not to rush has helped them deepen their knowledge of art and appreciate it more when seeing works in person, while gallery owners have had the free space to reflect on more strategically to their businesses and the shows they want to present. . And we all got the planet started.

But dealers must sell works of art, and living artists are in particular need of it. Trade show planners who have realized that there is an area between the two poles of a large-scale event and a website are on to something. In 2020, fairs such as the Copenhagen Chart and Nothing from Miami have experimented with a multi-location approach, under the aegis of their brands. These are still temporary exhibitions, so can generate excitement and the possibility of affiliate events, but are hosted by the individual galleries in their respective cities.

Fairs that have already committed to this format in 2021 include the Brafa fair for pre-contemporary art, which is normally held in Brussels, but this year its 126 exhibitors are on display individually in 37 cities (previews from January 27). Its website will be a backup resource with all the works offered in one place. Frieze Los Angeles plans a similar approach in July when it expands galleries across architecturally significant buildings – although the logistics of moving to Los Angeles in midsummer may make that sale more difficult.

Work by Sif Itona Westerberg at Gether Contemporary in Denmark © Niklas Vindelev

Locally, it will become difficult to differentiate between such events and existing art weekends or weeks, but boundaries have been blurring for some time in all areas of the art market and it will be. a case of survival of the fittest. Salons will simply have to prove that their brands, networks, and organizational strengths are additive – which at this point seems plausible.

Auction houses seemed to adapt more easily to virtual business in 2020, but their management also recognizes that it is the actual and event sales that really bring the goods. I would expect a lot more auctions to be conducted online and through the new live streaming technology than in 2019 – not least because management has invested heavily in certain high-tech solutions. But where possible, and certainly for higher value items, auction houses will try to bring back the excitement in person. “We don’t want a future where everything in the art market is put online,” says Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s.

On the activity front, optimists say the supply will come back, in part because discretionary sellers have already sat idly by for the better part of the year – although pessimists fear there is more. forced sellers, lowering values ​​and undermining market confidence.

The opening of Frieze Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures Studios, Hollywood © Casey Kelbaugh

Some decent shipments are already in the bag, the spirit – Christie’s has three major surrealist paintings to be offered in March with a combined estimate of £ 32million. Moreover, if we put aside the thorny issue of Brexit and its many unknowns, the global political uncertainties impacting the art market are generally reduced in 2021, now that the division American election almost finished.

Cerutti notes that the online break-through has brought in a new generation of buyers. At the time of writing, Christie’s reported that 40% of its buyers had entered service since March 2020, of which 32% were Millennials. Buyers in Asia have been particularly active and here too this is a young generation, buying between $ 50,000 and $ 500,000.

Most of them entered the art market via luxury goods, says Ben Clark of art advisor Gurr Johns, another area that will continue to thrive in the fine art world. In my opinion, the stumbling block in Asia remains China’s growing crackdown on freedoms, now including Hong Kongbut on that front, I would expect the art market to continue to turn a blind eye in the near term.

The disruption of the art market caused by the pandemic has caused quite a stir. Hopefully some of the more inventive collaborations will continue. Initiatives such as augmented and virtual realities will continue to test appetites, while existing non-industry platforms such as Instagram will keep discovery alive.

There are some great ideas on the slate – including a fair plus auction event via a new platform called South South – but it will be some time before any feel-good factor really sets in. It will prove to be more of a year of rehabilitation than of frenzied recovery.

Listen to our podcast, Call for culture, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art during the coronavirus era. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen

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