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The Changing State of The Art Industry During COVID-19

With COVID-19 here (to stay it seems), the state of businesses and people globally have changed forever. So, how are artists and galleries weathering the storm of this truly global pandemic?! Most art institutions around the globe have either already closed for the near future or have had their governments mandate they close, which means galleries and artists are taking a hit without sales to be made, and museums are left without the ability to host events or sell tickets.

The role (and mindset usually) of an artist is to express themselves and feelings during the time they are creating their piece, which in turn reveals a certain truth about the current state of society in which they live in their work. As New York contemporary artist Joseph Lanur tells us, “With a [COVID-19] lockdown in place the conventional process of communicating an artist’s vision while enticing collectors to buy into it both figuratively and literally, has been effectively stunted.”

So, how are artists and galleries getting by this “stunt” and pivoting to still engage consumers, fans and those seeking to enjoy the art around them safely? And what is today’s art exactly showcasing to the public?

Maureen Bray, the executive director of the Art Dealers Association of America which represents over 200 galleries across the United States shares, “Art always will offer insights into who we are and what we’re experiencing, as both individuals and as a whole society. Art is equal parts clarion call and safe haven, and we need both at this very moment.”

But even with this said, just like most industries in this world, art is also an industry that needs to make money, and with the world effectively at a “pause’ in some regions, artists, dealers, and others within the industry are essentially operating without one of their greatest sales tools… human connection.

Artist Angel Otero tells us, “Visiting galleries, museums and having studio visits with artists while interacting with artwork in a personal way is integral to the art industry, especially during traumatic moments. And yet, right now, we are living in a time when none of this is possible. The physicality of art is just not accessible.”

However, while some artists may be trying to figure out ways to get that human-connection, other artists, such as famed Canadian artist Daniel Mazzone, have been trying new methods out to reach those interested in their artwork via social media and the Internet. Daniel reveals, “I see how the Internet gives access to a large audience which can sometimes lead to imitation rather than appreciation, and to me there is a definitive line between the two. I just hope that people will credit the artist that inspires them. Social media has become the main platform for lifestyle. I think it’s a very important tool for us artists. People purchasing our artwork feel more connected with the art when they can relate or connect with the artist. Social media allows us to show small parts of our personality and who are. This is super important I feel.”

And indeed what Daniel says is true. More and more artists have taken to social media to not only share their art but to sell. Virtual galleries have even popped up online and auction houses have been resorting to online bidding in order to get pieces into collectors’ hands more easily and safely during COVID-19. According to the 2018’s Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, online sales only accounted a couple of years ago for 8.4% of the art industry’s overall profits, however, a recent survey proved that there has been an overly huge uptick in sales online – around the 40% mark – seeing how face-to-face interactions are no longer tenable.

With this uptick comes new apps and showcases online, which have been gaining in popularity. In fact, the hashtag #MuseumFromHome has been going around on Twitter and Instagram since local governments put everyone into quarantine. The University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art recently posted: “The museum may be closed and we all may be social distancing, but the beauty of technology and social media (which is not always so lovely) is that we can bring the museum both past and present into your homes.”

And via social media – some free and some with a small fee – museums and galleries are finding a new way to have people enjoy them once more. And as these online and social changes take place, artists are now finding a new way to get with the times and create works based on the current state of our society.

Daniel Mazzone (photo of his latest charity give-back piece “Screaming In Silence” pictured above) also told us, “I’ve been working on a new series during COVID called the emotions series. The artworks were meant to relate to all the emotions we were feeling since this started. Love, sadness, dreaming, anger, frustration! I wanted to really connect with the world. For once everyone in the world is experiencing the same feelings!”

The same feelings indeed. Trying to get back to “normal”, while navigating the world while still trying to love the art around us. While we as humans will always come and go, art is forever. And in the years down the road, people will look back at what we did now through these artists’ eyes/works, and learn about us, as we have about generations before us.

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