By Anita Choudhrie, Founder of Stellar International Art Foundation
Back in April, as Covid-19 began to have a significant impact on museums and galleries across the world, the Association of Art Museum Directors described it as a “crisis without precedent”. Now, nearly seven months on, the re-introduction of lockdown measures and the uncertainty around the looming Brexit deadline continue to undermine the art market.
Many small and medium sized galleries were already facing an uncertain future before the pandemic. Now, this has only been exasperated, with auction sales postponed, art fairs cancelled and galleries having to shut their doors for the second time this year. According to a survey by Art Newspaper, UK galleries are expecting a shocking 79 per cent fall in revenue in 2020.
With such market uncertainty, it is understandable that collectors may be feeling hesitant about whether now is a wise time to be investing in art. People are generally more cautious with their money during a period of economic uncertainty, including with their spending and investments. Naturally, this has a substantial impact on the entire art ecosystem, affecting artists and galleries, as well as the huge number of other people who make a living from the community. Moreover, during Covid-19, social distancing requirements have made it near impossible for collectors to physically inspect and transport purchases.
Art market resilience
Yet despite this hesitation, people are in fact still purchasing new works, just in a more considered and calculated manner. This is unsurprising when you consider the resilience of the art industry. In recent history there have been many other periods of precarity, including recessions, previous health pandemics and unpredicted events which have sent shockwaves through the world…but the art industry has always recovered. According to a Statista report, in 2019 the global art industry was valued at $67 billion, a stark contrast to the art market’s $39 billion evaluation in 2008 and 40 percent decline between the recession years of 2007 and 2009. It cannot be denied that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event which will have rippling effects for years to come, but it will do collectors well to remember that as we have seen before, normality will eventually resume. Whether it takes a couple of months, or even a year, the markets will recover – and once shops and restaurants re-open, holidays resume and employees return to offices, the art markets will assertively bounce back once again.
Considering art as an investment opportunity
Whilst investing in art may seem like a daunting prospect and an unnecessary expense during the middle of a global pandemic, now is a crucial time for collectors to be supporting the delicate art ecosystem wherever possible. Despite the precarious situation, artists have proven time and time again that their work can hold value during periods of economic upheaval, so there may still be wise investment opportunities to explore. For example, over the past five years, some of the most collectable contemporary art pieces have increased in value by over 160 percent. Over the past year, this same index has risen in value by nearly 5 percent, demonstrating how resilient the market can be.
In addition to this, many auction houses and galleries have set up charity sales, offering collectors an opportunity to purchase credible art at amazing prices, whilst doing their bit to keep the market afloat. Therefore, along with providing collectors with an opportunity to pick up some fantastic bargains, the pandemic is also helping to open up the art world to new, first time buyers, encouraging younger generations to become collectors as well.
The digital boom
Ultimately, the pandemic may be wreaking havoc on the world, but it is also providing the long-needed incentive for the art industry to fully embrace change. Art works have been available through multiple online platforms for years, however, the scale of investment into digital channels has rapidly expanded in recent months. For example, the renowned Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac invested extensively in state-of-the-art technology to facilitate virtual visits, starting with a walk-through of the Daniel Richter show in its Salzburg gallery.
Additionally, the organisers of Art Basel created an online viewing room dedicated exclusively to artwork produced this year. Not only did this decision give some of this century’s most overlooked artists a chance to shine in the digital spotlight, but it also opened up the exhibition to a much broader audience than ever before.
Although the pandemic has forced the industry’s hand, total online sales have risen from a 10 percent share of the business market in 2019 to over 35 percent in the first half of 2020. The importance of this shift in making art more accessible to everyone and in turn, supporting the industry to stay afloat, cannot be overlooked. This online market growth also demonstrates how there is still significant demand among buyers, and therefore, that the art market isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Ultimately, with the global economy currently disrupted and with no real indication of when ‘normality’ will resume, it is understandable that collectors may be treading carefully with their next purchase. Yet as we know, art has long proven to be a stable investment, often outperforming other asset classes and weathering the most difficult of global financial storms. Of course, every collector’s situation is different, but there are certainly great deals to be had across the entire spectrum of the art market; whether you are in the fortunate position to invest in fine art, or are looking to make your first purchase from the emerging category.
The Stellar International Art Foundation:
Established in 2008, The Collection has become internationally renowned for its content, coverage and activities around the globe and is a particular champion of female artists and feminist art. Currently the foundation comprises over 600 works dating from the late 19th Century to the present day, including international artists and ranging from sculptures to paintings. It distinguishes on individual talent rather than regions and gives an insight into the cultural viewpoint of individuals with diverse understandings of the world.
For more information, please visit: https://sia.foundation/