Virtual Exhibitions: Help Or Hindrance?

How the pandemic rocked the New York art market.


As the world locked down, collectives in every country turned to one common agent to keep their livelihoods afloat: the internet. And the art world was no different.

Online exhibitions abounded, with creators adapting to the changing times and art becoming more accessible. But a crucial element of the art world- art collectors- were not convinced by this change of platform.

The 2020 Arts Economics and Crozier Fine Arts report, released Tuesday, suggests that art collectors have been reluctant to follow the art world into the online sphere.

These collectors largely prefer to buy their works offline, where they can view the art in person and make an informed decision about whether to purchase. Considering that images online can look different to the actual product, this reasoning is understandable. One art advisor noted:

“…I’m based in New York as are most of
my clients. To be able to see artworks in
person rather than online is the best way
to ensure a positive visceral response and
make a final purchase decision…”

Unfortunately, this change of pace is having a detrimental effect on the art world.

Of the collectors surveyed, 90% reported visiting a virtual exhibit, while a meagre 22% reported ever making an art purchase online.

This could spell trouble, particularly for emerging artists. The report emphasises that much of the art in New York millennial’s collections are from emerging artists. Named in 2019 as the largest art market in the world (44%), the US is a critical market for art dealership. Even a small drop in this mass could be detrimental. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A majority of art advisors surveyed estimated that the city’s art world could recover in an estimated 2-5 years. And 91% were positive about how the market could prosper over the next 10 years.

Although the report concludes that New York has remained the focal point of the 2020 art market, it’s clear that the pandemic will have lasting effects on the future of art in the city.

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