In recent weeks, Europe and many other countries around the world have been battling a pandemic whilst attempting to manage its negative impacts on market performance. The art and design worlds have also been facing the consequences of Covid-19...
China was the first to announce the spread of the virus. The cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong for health and safety reasons was a severe blow to all the collectors who populate the city and bring a considerable influx of money to the international art market every year by regularly participating in high-end auctions and fairs.
On the other side of the world, in the European continent, the country most affected by this healthcare emergency has been Italy. Important annual appointments have been postponed: the 59th Salone del Mobile will now take place between 16 and 21 June, Miart will take place between 11 and 13 September, and Milano Art Week has also been rescheduled for the 7 to 13 September. Those looking forward to attending the Venice Architecture Biennale have also had to cancel their travel plans; the opening, initially scheduled for 23 May, has been officially moved to 29 August.
France has also applied various policies to contain the spread of the epidemic which have led to the closure of museums, galleries, foundations and all non-essential commercial activities. The organisers were quick and efficient in their rescheduling strategy. For example, Paris Drawing Now Art Fair and the Salon du Dessin will now take place at the end of May. A little further north, in the Belgian capital, Art Brussels will be held at the end of June, and in Germany, Art Cologne has been officially postponed to November (19 - 22/11). The second half of 2020 promises to be full of events!
Auction Houses React
In the Auction world, Christie’s claims to have taken a series of measures to tackle the perpetuation of coronavirus contagion. More than 25 locations, including those in Geneva, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, New York, Paris, Rome and San Francisco, are closed and staff have embraced the social distancing of work from home policies. Phillips Auctions also asked its staff to switch to "work from home" whilst simultaneously postponing all American and European auctions until mid-May through a message posted on their official website, signed by Global Chairwoman Cheyenne Westphal and CEO Edward Dolman.
What about Sotheby’s? Online and live auctions such as "Jewels Online" and "Original Film Posters Online" have remained unchanged. In the coming months, Sotheby's will assess the situation and let potential buyers and interested parties know 30 days in advance if there are any changes to their schedule.
Overseas, New York City’s art world managed to follow its normal course until the middle of March. The Armory Show unfolded as planned, with participants coming in from all over the world - only two Chinese galleries decided not to participate. However the impact of the Covid-19 emergency has now extended to the US as well, pushing the organisers of Frieze NY to cancel their 2020 edition. Tickets will be refunded and we will have to wait until next year to participate. Finally, the spring edition of TEFAF NY, dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, is set to replace the autumn edition, which, in turn, has been cancelled.
For art lovers, the solution is digital
The new policy of "staying at home" so as to prevent the propagation of the virus is in itself a good opportunity to dedicate some time to ourselves and to rediscover our love for art. In this context, confined at home for the foreseeable future, our only salvation is the use of digital tools! They have taken on a fundamental role, allowing us to shorten the distances that separate us and entertaining us in our spare time.
The various players in the art market are enhancing their online content offerings to engage their audiences "at a distance". Galleries are stepping up their activities on their websites, for example Galleria Raffaella Cortese’s Viewing Rooms, which represent a digital expansion of this gallery’s exhibition spaces through the presentation of video art by artists like Alejandro Cesarco, Simone Forti, Joan Jonas, Kimsooja, and Yael Bartana.
Similarly, the world's leading museums offer free virtual tours, auction houses are focusing on online auctions and art fairs like Art Basel Hong Kong have set a good example by experimenting with Online Viewing Rooms. These digital platforms allow galleries to recreate exhibitions by presenting the works for sale in great detail and high quality, simply by entering the relevant information and making it accessible to collectors and art lovers. In addition, artworks can be purchased directly online. It certainly helps that Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Rooms platform is intuitive and well structured; users can do a quick search by entering the name of a gallery or of their favorite artists. Similarly, the Art Dubai fair has launched digital content. From 24 March onwards, visitors and collectors will be able to access the Catalogue 2020, the Global Art Forum and the Performance Program online.
Some argue that the art market is based on meetings, handshakes and first-person relationships among its participants but, in this specific situation, one must be able to look to the future and rely on the digital world. After all, technology allows us to capture every single detail of the pieces for sale through high-quality images and videos. Collectors should not be discouraged, unlike other markets, art will not suffer the severe consequences of interrupted chains of production. Art is conceptual, less subject to price volatility, and as such it will survive, as it has done in the past, to any shocks to the system. We just have to turn on our PC in search of our favorite pieces... all we need is a good Wi-Fi connection!
The impact on art logistics
In the battle against the coronavirus, countries have rightly imposed restrictions on the movement of citizens both at a local and international level. However, cargo flights are still operating as normal, keeping the supply chain intact. In this unfortunate context, Convelio is maintaining its competitive offer for the shipment of art and design pieces. Our team and partners will continue to organise, package, pick up, wood-crate and ship as long as we are allowed to do so. With Convelio, art can still travel and reach all art lovers across the globe.