The Art World in Lockdown

The art world thrives on face time – not the iPhone app, but the real thing: lots of people viewing, mulling, meeting, and mingling at small galleries, local museums, flashy big-city openings, and VIP-packed art fairs. But now, COVID-19 has the world in the grip of a pandemic and trapped in an economy-destroying lockdown that is as frightening as the disease itself. The art fair calendar has been blotted out with cancelations, auction houses are closed, and galleries have locked their doors.

World-moving art events including the March 2020 Art Basel Hong Kong, the June 2020 Art Basel in Basel, Christie’s auctions in London, Hong Kong, and New York, and the Venice Architecture Biennale have been canceled or postponed. The 150-year-old San Francisco Art Institute announced no incoming class for the fall of 2020. This pandemic is a truly earth-shaking event for the art business; New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz described the traumatic shutdown of the New York gallery scene in an ominous essay titled The Art World Goes Dark.

Like restaurants, most art galleries and the artists that give them a reason for being live on the edge financially. As Saltz reports, many galleries were already strained by trying to compete with the few big-money megagalleries that have become the dominant force in the realm of commercialized art. “Most galleries don’t have cash reserves to go through a lockdown of six months. Or to open and then go through it again in the fall and winter should the virus return.”

It’s a scary situation when the art business is under threat of near-extinction even in the city that is at the heart of global arts culture. When the biggest players are retreating in fear of COVID-19, and the world’s top galleries are laying off staff and facing eviction notices, what is the common artist or gallery owner to do?

The Art Show Must Go On – Despite COVID-19

Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, the world’s most popular contemporary art gallery, recently noted that “It’s a pivotal moment. We’re going to talk in terms of before and after. The virus will change a lot of things for art.”

It’s a pivotal moment. We’re going to talk in terms of before and after. The virus will change a lot of things for art.

There appears to be some hope that many of the changes may be positive. In what may be a side-effect of lockdown, isolation, and increased Internet surfing, people seem to be starved to view art.

Online art exhibitions and viewing venues are coming fully into their own as major fairs like Basel Hong Kong go virtual, museum site visitor counts soar, and galleries report record web traffic. Virtual tours and exhibitions are the rage. Social media has turned into a major channel for audience outreach and connection. Staid institutions including the UK’s Royal Academy of Arts have Twitter feeds running; the Royal Academy is even encouraging followers to submit their work to a Daily Doodle thread.

Similar to so many other businesses in this most strange of all modern times, residents of the art world are going online and recalibrating for remote operations as a way to survive long enough to emerge on the other side. And it’s very possible that the other side might not look too bad. Artists with a lot of emotionally-charged alone time on their hands will be producing work. Many art world commentators agree that reopening galleries will take on a more important role as valued communal gathering spaces. Crowds are expected to be in attendance.

Sheltering from Troubled Times in Virtual Work Spaces

If you are an artist or gallery owner, you are undoubtedly already familiar with the importance of web presence across most realms of the art world. It is well-established that all of the visual, textual, and performance arts lend themselves well to being publicly offered for both appreciation and sales in an online format.

While there are always those who will say that nothing replaces the live experience, online art has its advantages: ease of access for larger audiences, multiple and time-unrestricted opportunities for appreciation, high-quality visual and audio experiences, lower costs and carbon footprints associated with putting on exhibitions and performances; the list goes on.

Right now, while everything is locked down and slowed down, it’s a great time to build a new online art space, polish and update an existing structure, or create from scratch if you are not even online yet. Here are some strategies to think about:

Put the Digital Business Experts on Your Side

The Wodu Media team is a crew of digital creatives that has spent over 20 years helping organizations and individuals of all types translate their dreams into online designs. Whether you already have a site that needs some touch-ups or want a custom build from raw code, we can handle the job with ease while bringing unique flair and appreciation for aesthetics to the table.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, times are certainly changing in the art world. But art is ageless, and both those who create and those who connect artists with the public have been able to persist through the centuries – plagues and even worse are nothing new. Hard times often produce the most profound work. At Wodu Media, we are digital artists, and we are ready to help you meet this latest challenge. Contact us by chat, email, or phone (800-909-WODU) any time.