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Art & Politics : Exploring Online Trends amid COVID-19

Today for Art & Politics we are exploring online trends amid COVID.

Through Art & Politics, Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring you stories new and old of the symbiotic nature of art and politics!

In a pandemic-stricken world, humankind has admitted the need to regroup. We need to re-think and re-focus all aspects of our life. Even after Coronavirus ceases to a be threat, the status-quo remains forever altered. We apply this philosophy to our personal life. However, it is equally important to apply it to business and industry.

What does this mean in art? Simple, the art world needs to make major structural changes. This is not in order to thrive. It is merely in order to survive in the post-pandemic economy. Consequently, most art institutions must focus on the virtual more than the physical.

Growing Trends : Accelerated

Digitization has forever been a ‘growing trend’ in art. Galleries are slowly pushing online sales. Museums are creating virtual databases to showcase their collection. Purely digital-based businesses have come into being. However, institutions must arguably fast-track these trends to cut their losses.

Let us consider the secondary and tertiary market – galleries and auction houses. Art being a luxury commodity, not a lot of people will be looking to invest post-pandemic. Further, the people who are looking to buy, will need an offer they can’t refuse. Hence the volume and value of sales will dip. In order to cut costs galleries need to save on rent, overhead costs and salaries. Thus, the brick-and-mortar model is unfeasible. Similarly, auction houses must push to move more business online. While major auctioneers hold regular online sales, the number and frequency has to increase. After all, even wining and dining high profile clients costs money. Money that sellers can no longer afford.

Exploring Online Trends : British Museum, Sotheby’s, Art Basel

Fear of cyber crime, lack of knowledge, an unwillingness to change. There are many reasons the art market has put-off going fully digital. But COVID-19 has left it no choice. So, the real question is, will art collectors and audiences be on board the digital change? Online trade reports and data presented by various players suggests that, with the right laws put in place, digitisation could be the future of art. We explore this question through a brief analysis of 3 art websites.

Online Trends : The British Museum

Recently, the British Museum added around 300,000 images to their digital database. The Museum’s website is active and dynamic. It offers visitors an insight into the museum’s history, curatorial program and current on-goings. Additionally, it serves as an important resource for research. The Museum’s website saw a peak in visitors at the beginning of March 2020. This was around the time that the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the WHO. The UK. being one of the worst hit countries, was on partial lockdown.

The reason for the increase in website traffic may be attributed to people not being able to visit the Museum physically. Further, since the Museum archives have been updated with thousands of free images, this is an added attraction to people genuinely interested in art and history. It is important to note that number of visitors to the website was fairly stagnant in the months preceding March.

Online Trends : Art Basel’s Visitor Rooms

For their 2020 Hong Kong edition, Art Basel launched online visitor rooms. This was to enable audiences to view the art digitally since the in-person fair had been cancelled. Instead of going physically, visitors could now simply go online and experience or buy art. The online rooms were launched mid March 2020 for a week. Around this time, website traffic peaked to its highest in 6 months. Although it is hard to estimate value of sales. But due to digitisation, the event was not a total loss.

Online Trends : Artsy

Artsy is hosting online exhibitions for various art institutions that are currently shut. It also allows you to buy or sell art online. This platform has also seen surge in number of visitors since March 2020. Though the increase is only marginal. This may be because artsy is an online platform and blog. Thus, their activities are all primarily digital in any case.

What Does this Mean?

An exploration of the above three websites shows that the market is not ill-equipped to go online. The British Museum is one of the world’s leading public museums. Art Basel is an extremely prominent international fair for art trade. And Artsy is an online platform for art news and trade. All 3 types of businesses have seen a steady increase in online users in the pandemic era. It is indicative of the fact that consumers of art are willing to embrace the digital. If art institutions invest more in creating virtual exhibitions and sales, the market can avoid the complete breakdown it is heading toward.

*All online trends have been analysed using digital intelligence tools.

For more explorations of Art & Politics visit the archive.

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