How three art collectors adapted their quarantine habits

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Typically this time of year, the New York art market comes alive after the May auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, which come right after the run to Randall’s Island for Frieze New York and uptown at 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 completely digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

“I did some things during this period,” said Brussels collector Alain Servais. His biggest takeaway? “Art is not made to be seen online, except, he said, for art which is designed to see online.

Servais told us in the first week that Belgium had started lifting restrictions on businesses. The collector – who owns works by artists such as,, and – said he visited a few galleries earlier in the week.

“The physical response at work is the key,” Servais said. He added that in the months that businesses have been shut down and art fairs around the world have been canceled, he hasn’t done any fundraising, finding the online user experience of Frieze “no less terrible. “and allegedly deleted between 50 and 200 e-mails from online viewing rooms. per 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 art sales methods, Servais and Singaporean collector Cindy Chua-Tay said they’d rather focus on artists whose work they already know and take a closer look at the works they do. they had already been in the back of their minds. “The works I recently purchased are from artists whose works I already own,” said Chua-Tay. “In some ways, this pandemic has made me more attentive to younger and emerging artists, and I am working to support them and the galleries that represent them. But the fundamentals of what I collect and why haven’t changed in the wake of this pandemic. ”

Servais nodded. He leaned over a marble piece of, the work of which he had seen at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris about a year ago. Gander’s Parisian gallery, gb agency, contacted Servais because he had previously expressed interest in the piece. “The people who did it intelligently were the ones who came back to me with works that they knew I liked in the last one or two years that were still available, or who returned works to me.” , did he declare.
Adam Lindemann, art collector and founder of the New York gallery Venus Over Manhattan, also currently to chase Real estate mogul and mega-collector Aby Rosen so he could break the gallery’s $ 365,000 lease – confessed that the only thing he had bought since the lockdown began was a wetsuit in cold water as he crouched in Montauk. His other ventures 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 seeking to get rid of his Montauk property for $ 65 million). Simultaneously, he responded to requests from other collectors via Venus Over Manhattan.

“[I’ve been] entertain absurd inquiries, ”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 this. It’s not like the stock market. These are things that are rarely negotiated.

His gallery participated in the online edition of Frieze New York because of the fair’s removal of stand fees, but with some skepticism. “If they had charged it, I wouldn’t have paid it,” he said. “I saw a dealership say, ‘Well, we were tired of the fairs anyway. “”

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

He continued, “They’re 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 largest gallery. But maybe they were going to do it anyway.

For their part, Chua-Tay and Servais spoke positively of 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 a slow recovery. Servais suggested that a silver lining for galleries is the fact that due to their limited capacity, they will likely 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 from now, but I think galleries have a unique opportunity to play the role that they are. 15 years ago… They should take advantage of the only cultural space available today, by being a little more innovative and enterprising than they usually are.

Chua-Tay echoed this optimism. “The real patrons will prevail. 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 art world to come.

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