The Art World Online – Buying Art in Time of crisis

Livestreamed Art: A Sotheby’s auctioneer, based in London, taking virtual bids from specialists in London, New York, and Hong Kong

With the total closure of all cultural institutions – from the largest museums and opera houses to music clubs, cinemas and tiny galleries – art has rapidly moved online.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the art market stalled and the outlook was bleak. “The art world seemed frozen,” mega-dealer David Zwirner told the Wall Street Journal, describing the period in late March.

Galleries and auction houses started presenting as many works of art online as possible and to create new ways for collectors to interact with works for sale.

These companies were already honing their virtual presentation, so when the time came, many of them were able to turn around relatively easily. The challenge now is to maintain the interest of those who buy art online throughout the pandemic – and beyond.

On June 30, Sotheby’s tested the high-end art online marketplace with a fully virtual night sale, a five-hour, 80-lot event that included art from the esteemed Jeannie Williams’ estate, followed by Impressionist, contemporary art sales, and contemporary art from various owners, who raised $ 363.2 million, close to the high end of the home’s pre-sale estimate.

On that sale, Sotheby’s hit the highest price for a work sold to an online bidder when Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting Untitled (The Head) sold for $ 15.2 million.

Christie’s sold nearly 8,000 lots online between March and August; Of all buyers in that period, 34 percent were newcomers to Christie’s.

Christie’s largest average spending during the blocking period was for what they call “newbies,” those who had traded with Christie’s at auction prior to blocking but moved to online sales only.

This group acquired 5 of the top 10 lots sold online during the lockdown, and 20 percent of them did not purchase with the house in the past two years but re-attracted them online.

However, buying art online currently deprive the buyer of two attractive factors available offline: physical presence in the gallery’s circle of clients (closed events where you can solve your business issues) and the possibility of live communication with the dealer (a kind of free art consulting on account of the acquired work). It is these two restrictions that Internet art sellers must first remove in one way or another in order to successfully replace the usual format of relations between the parties to the transaction.

The example of the international network of galleries Hauser & Wirth, which has created virtual spaces for collectors and artists, confirms that the largest market players have already begun to work in this direction.

 The hybrid model makes a powerful statement during Frieze Week in London

Most of the largest museums and galleries in the world, and without any crisis, had detailed sites where you could take a free tour and get acquainted with their best exhibits. Now this work is rapidly expanding and taking on new forms.

Art galleries continue to adapt to new realities. The hybrid model makes a powerful statement during Frieze Week in London.

Despite tightening restrictions on Covid-19 in the UK, London galleries, museums, and even its online fairs want us to enjoy art in person as much as possible this fall. Like most large-scale events in 2020, Frieze Fairs, which are usually held in two huge tents in Regent’s Park this time of year, has gone virtual with over 250 attendees on (October 9-16).

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Frieze New York 2014
Photograph by Marco Scozzaro. Courtesy of Marco Scozzaro/Frieze.

The Frieze online viewing room also has a new tag to celebrate works that can be seen in physical galleries, and there are many in London.

Artists, while responding well to the fact that so many exhibitions move online, usually do the work in a way that can be experienced in real life.

London gallerist Alison Jacques says that getting live artists to submit new work for a virtual fair is very different from an exhibition or [physical] fair, and it’s not an easy task.

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Rebecca Manson, ‘Sunflowers in a Summer Storm’ (2020) © Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley.

Lilly is one of many gallery owners who have decided to double their square footage this month and have expanded into a neighborhood where he features Nick Goss (Oct 8 – Nov 13).

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Derek Fordjour, ‘Regatta Pattern Study’ (2020) © Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley.

Roman gallerist Lorcan O’Neill has also allocated physical space at 14 Hay Hill in Mayfair until October 24, the opening should coincide with his digital presence at Frieze London.

While many galleries report buying art online during the pandemic, nothing beats the speed of closing a deal on-site. The unique nature of art and its high prices rightly requires more physical interaction than other luxury items.

Marwan Zachem, the founder of Gallery 1957 in Ghana, says that one should try as many channels as possible to see what works.

Art online: programs from 7 famous galleries

The artworld is rapidly adapting to new conditions: now the screens of computers and laptops act as galleries, studios, and canvases. New digital initiatives by galleries and major contemporary art foundations provide an alternative to real-life museum visits and try to respond to the markedly increased interest in art.

Fondazione Prada

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Liu Ye Eileen Chang, 2004, 60 x 45 cm. Fragment of the picture. Courtesy Fondazione Prada.

Following the postponement of the opening of several major exhibitions, the Milan branch of Fondazione Prada has strengthened its virtual presence. This institution offers a kind of visual creativity laboratory to support inspiration.

On all of its platforms, including Vimeo, Youtube, Facebook, and its own website, Fondazione Prada has opened virtual exhibitions, providing access to its archives. It is noticeable that the Foundation encourages close interaction with other exhibitions and its organizers.

For example, the documentation of Collezione Prada’s curatorial contribution to the retrospectives of Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Archwager is interesting.

David Zwirner Gallery

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Works by Harold Ancart at David Zwirner Gallery

After temporarily closing his spaces, David Zwirner began looking for new ways of exhibiting contemporary art and sharing content: his experience is quite inventive and involves the means of various platforms.

To begin with, the well-known gallery owner expanded access to a series of books published by him. The gallery has planned a series of exhibitions and special online events.


The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Installation by Daniel Arsham at the Perrotin Gallery

The gallery has always been renowned for its extensive library of virtual displays, documentaries, and podcasts, and now the focus on digital art promotion is particularly relevant.

A fresh initiative is the launch of the #Unlocked program. Here you can walk through the workshops of famous artists who will take you on a personal tour of where masterpieces are born. The first virtual walk took place on Instagram: it was taken by Claire Tabouret through her studio in Los Angeles.

The artist presented her new series of paintings about brothers and sisters. The second broadcast took place in the studio of Jean-Philippe Delhomme. Also, on the IGTV platform, the gallery has prepared a series of short questions and answers.

Stephen Friedman Gallery

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Andreas Eriksson, Pictures of Memories, Time to Draw, Stephen Friedman Gallery

Two key Stephen Friedman Gallery exhibitions have been posted online. Two key Stephen Friedman Gallery exhibitions have been posted online. Andreas Eriksson’s immersive film Paintings of Memories, Time to Draw tells about the process of transferring paintings into new large-scale tapestries: a large team of Stockholm weavers took part in this mesmerizing act.

The gallery has opened an online section where you can watch the film “Latin America from 1950 to 2020: A Personal Journey” – a group exhibition dedicated to a variety of Latin American art and timed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the gallery.

Hauser & Wirth

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Louise Bourgeois at work in her workshop

The digital hub Hauser & Wirth aims to bring together a variety of events and exhibitions, and promote art online.

Viewers are invited to look behind the scenes of art studios: the participants of this project will upload various videos filmed in their own workshops (this section of the platform is called “From A Distance”).

Launched as part of the Avery Singer competition for artists, this project invites all creatives to share their own work.

Pace Gallery

Like many exhibition spaces, Pace Gallery demanded to announce its temporary closed space, but all the freed up capacity has been invested in new online tools.

It features a mix of group and one-man shows that explore important contemporary topics, including home life, the promise of a future world, and human relationships.

Gagosian Gallery

The Art World Online - Buying Art in Time of crisis
Exhibition Y.Z. Kami: Night Paintings at Gagosian Gallery

When museums and art galleries closed their physical spaces, the temptation to use the digital field could not resist the art heavyweights – including the Gagosian gallery. After much deliberation, Larry Gagosian also decided to present the planned exhibitions on the Internet.

To this end, Gagosian launched the Artist Spotlight project, inviting the artist to present a new project in it every week, and thus take over some of the gallery’s functions. The founders hope that the gallery’s numerous channels will be transformed with the help of artists into a new multi-faceted and frequently updated online platform.










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