Home Magazine How will art fairs change after this pandemic?

Many are wondering how large scale art events will evolve after a pandemic. Today the focus is on big art fairs, the first to suffer from the containment measures and the ones engaged in finding new ways to preserve their collectors. Many fairs have exploited the new possibilities of the online platforms, but what changes are expected for this important gear of the market and what might be the contraindications? 

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The first one was Art Basel Hong Kong, which brought in its Online Viewing Rooms 235 galleries and over 2,000 works of art. But the move, which recorded good numbers, as told by some blue-chip galleries, may have proved to be counterproductive. In short, if the web works so well, then why galleries have to invest so much for an art fair? David Zwirner, who has been dominating the online world these days, must have thought about it and developed two interesting projects. 

After launching his viewing room for emerging galleries in New York, the most affected by this COVID-19 emergency, David Zwirner has launched two other online commercial and exhibition initiatives that risk blowing up the counter, or rather the booth: Studio and Exceptional Works. And if everything goes according to plan, at this point, Zwirner - a gallerist who has the power to make a fair-bankrupt with his absence - could decide to do his work without travel, set-ups and rental prices and proceed straight on his own, leaning on the online.


Wolfgang Tillmans. Photo by Carmen Brunner. © Wolfgang Tillmans.  


For Studio, in rotation one to three new works by artists represented by the gallery will be presented, starting from a photograph that Wolfgang Tillmans has specifically created for the project. On the other hand, for Exceptional Works, the gallery will focus on the secondary market, with online exhibitions of great masterpieces of contemporary art. It will start from "Homage to the Square", by Joseph Albers (1959), belonging to the collection of Theodore and Barbara Dreier. The work will have a price between $ 1 million and $ 2 million. "I see this as a moment to change people's thinking about the online space," - Zwirner told to Artnet News - "It's hard for me to imagine that the attraction of an art fair has for me right now is going to be the same when I have an online business that does a really good job bringing new clients to the gallery ".

These are the recent declarations of the gallery owner, who with his 160 employees, between the offices in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong, is a multinational contemporary art industry. For the moment, 12 people are employed in the online sales sector, four of whom have been hired in the last year and in recent days the gallery has launched an internal call, to pass on some of its employees in the web sector.

So what scenario can we imagine for art fairs? At a difficult time for the interaction economy, private initiatives of this kind might seem counterproductive. In short, you cannot go to your customers but you want them to come to you comfortably from home. Huge fairs with huge costs, suddenly deserted by all Blue Chip galleries. How could be they be sure of their loyal and reliable collectors? A few weeks ago, Perrotin had launched a singular, experimental but also a provocative initiative that seemed to go in a certain direction: a new space in Paris, intimate, domestic, reserved for a very limited audience of collectors. Read our article Emmanuel Perrotin's new venture in Paris!

Cover image: David Zwirner at the Frieze Art Fair 2019 on Randall's Island in New York City. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images).

Written by Elisabetta Rastelli

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