The Art World Post-COVID-19
Susan Eley recently spoke to Joel Lang, reporter with The Connecticut Post, who asked what she thought the gallery might look like when we emerge from quarantine and re-open.
What will galleries look like going forward?
Galleries have had to respond in different ways to COVID-19, depending on what type of businesses they operated before the crisis. While many galleries will close because of the loss of business during the quarantine, many will also weather the storm and reopen, perhaps with scaled down programs and fewer staff.
As many smaller galleries had already closed bricks and mortar spaces in the past decade or so, with increasing rents and unsustainable operating costs, life for them post COVID-19 may not seem so very different as business was conducted largely online. In many ways, the gallery world has been preparing for this new normal all along, as we have moved increasingly towards a digital existence through more comprehensive web sites, presence on social media and external online sales platforms, such artnet.com, artsy.net and 1stdibs.com.
For galleries who can re-open, it is likely that for the first few years, receptions will be scaled back with a limit on the number of visitors who can be in the gallery at one time. Maybe art fairs will also limit the number of people who can be in a booth together. Perhaps galleries will host fewer exhibitions per year to control expenses; a direct result of this could be that more sales are conducted directly out of artist studios and through marketing efforts online.
For those forced to close bricks and mortar spaces, we will get creative, featuring rotating exhibitions in our apartments, renting colleagues’ galleries. Perhaps galleries will consolidate, co-rent spaces or do pop up shows in short term locations.
We gallerists are a resilient bunch. We need to be around artists and people who love art. We have an almost visceral need to give life to new artwork through exhibition. We take enormous pleasure playing matchmaker between the collector and that special piece of art. It’s what we live for. So, we will find a way to keep doing the work.
As the world emerges from the pandemic and social distancing becomes a bad memory, we will revert to our old ways, with perhaps fewer hugs and more elbow bumps at public events.