How three art collectors adapted their habits during quarantine

Typically at this time of year, the New York art market was on after May auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, which came just after the race to Randall’s Island for Frieze New York and to downtown TEFAF New York. But of course, 2020 is far from a typical year. This spring, collectors had to replace their VIP passes with online login credentials as the art market went all-digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet this new digital landscape has yielded flashy numbers. Sotheby’s reset its record for an online auction with its first-ever all-virtual contemporary art sale, raising $13.7 million, and Frieze New York’s online edition recorded multiple seven-figure sales. But aside from the bumper sales, the market is far from business as usual. Art auctions would have fell nearly 76% in March 2020 compared to 2019 figures, and US galleries are forecasting a 73% drop in revenue in the second quarter of the year. In other words, while collectors are making some purchases online, the numbers pale in comparison to a typical spring season in the art market.

“I achieved a few things during this period,” said Brussels collector Alain Servais. His biggest takeaway? “Art is not meant to be seen online, except,” he clarified, “for art that is designed to see online.

Servais spoke to us during the first week Belgium started lifting restrictions for businesses. The collector – who has works by artists including , , and – said he visited a few galleries earlier in the week.

“The physical response to work is key,” Servais said. He added that in the months when businesses were closed and art fairs around the world were canceled, he did not collect anything, finding Frieze’s online user experience “no less terrible. and allegedly deleted between 50 and 200 emails about online viewing rooms. a day, “without even looking at who sends them,” he said. “I’m not kidding, it immediately goes in the trash.”

Instead of the more high-profile methods of selling art, Servais and Singaporean collector Cindy Chua-Tay said they preferred to focus on artists whose work they already knew, and take a closer look at works that they had already had behind them. their thoughts. “The works I recently purchased are from artists whose works I already own,” Chua-Tay said. “In a way, this pandemic has made me more attentive to younger and emerging artists, and I strive to support them and the galleries that represent them. But the fundamentals of what and why I collect don’t have not changed as a result of this pandemic.

Servais agreed. He pored over a marble work by , whose work he had seen at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris about a year ago. Gander’s Parisian gallery, gb agency, contacted Servais as he had previously expressed interest in the piece. “People who have done it smart are those who have come back to me with works that they knew I liked over the last couple of years and were still available, or sent me works back,” said he declared.
Adam Lindemann, art collector and founder of the New York gallery Venus Over Manhattan, also currently to chase Real estate tycoon and mega-collector Aby Rosen so he can break the gallery’s $365,000 lease – confessed the only thing he had bought since the lockdown began was a wetsuit to surf in cold water as he crouched in Montauk. His other ventures have included selling prints from the 1960s and 1970s to support New York hospitals and organizing an upcoming furniture sale to benefit the Montauk Food Bank (he is also would have is looking to sell its Montauk property for $65 million). Simultaneously, he answered queries from other collectors via Venus Over Manhattan.

“[I’ve been] entertain nonsensical investigations,” Lindemann said. “People think that because there is the COVID crisis, everything would be at 30% [discounted] or something. Which I don’t understand, because the art world has never worked like that. It’s not like the stock market. These are things that are rarely traded.

His gallery participated in the online edition of Frieze New York due to the removal of booth fees, but did so with some skepticism. “If they had charged for it, I wouldn’t have paid,” he said. “I saw a dealer say, ‘Well, we’ve had enough of fairs anyway. “”

Lindemann expressed a related sense of cynicism about other efforts aimed at helping small galleries right now, in particular David Zwirner’s Platform initiative, which allows a handful of small galleries in certain cities to offer works through Zwirner’s digital portal. “When you see small galleries on bigger gallery websites, I know some people thought that was great, but is it?” Lindemann asked. “Is this just the first step in a complete monopolistic consolidation of all the small galleries and all their artists into larger corporations? Is that what’s happening?

He continued: “They are going to eat their lunch. [The bigger galleries are] have access to all [the smaller galleries’] customers and all their information. When they go bankrupt, these artists will hope to flee to the biggest gallery. But maybe they were going to do it anyway.

For their part, Chua-Tay and Servais spoke positively about the new collaborations sparked by the crisis. “I am encouraged to see various entities coming together and supporting each other,” Chua-Tay said. “This is positive and extremely helpful as not all galleries have the technical infrastructure and resources to support a fully functional website, let alone the reach of an international clientele to generate sales.”

Many wonder if the current recession will impact the art market in the same way as the 2008 recession – a sharp crash and slow recovery. Servais suggested that a silver lining for galleries is the fact that due to their limited capacity they are likely to be the only art spaces open for some time, with museums and fairs lagging behind. As galleries in Asia and Europe begin to reopen, he said: “I don’t know exactly what will happen in a year, but I think galleries have a unique opportunity to play the role they had there. 15 years ago.… They should take advantage of being the only cultural space available right now, by being a bit more innovative and enterprising than they usually are.

Chua-Tay echoed that optimism. “The real patrons will win. The way we all see and buy art will be very different,” she said. “I think it will be a combination of traditional vehicles, like fairs and galleries (but the format and scale will be very different), with new virtual platforms. It will be a very different artistic world that awaits us.