These are difficult and challenging times, with many people around the world seeing significant changes to their circumstances. There is no doubt that the current health crisis will disrupt lives, jobs, quality of life and the economy for many years to come. It is difficult to underplay the changes that are imminent. Whilst we remain rightly focused on our health and that of those we love and care for - we wanted to look forward in order to understand what effect coronavirus may have on our industry.
The art world will face its own challenges, reacting to situations that will inevitably arise as a fallout of coronavirus. So, in order to understand more about the changing landscape, we asked professionals from across the art industry (Daria Borisova - Art Advisor/Curator // Matt McGlynn - founder - Collectors Institute // Jason Smith - founder - Leonards Art) what their opinions were.
DA - "With the obvious growing economic concern due to the ongoing corona pandemic - How do you see this affecting the art markets performance this year?"
Daria - "As the world economy is collapsing, opportunities will rise in the art market. Good collectors tend to hold onto important work, but eventually as people will start to lose more money, they will have to sell! Especially those who previously invested in the stock market. For any one who is looking to invest now, I would suggest to focus on buying historically important artists and not the trendy artists."
Matt - "This is a great question and a topic I’ve been asked about a lot over the past year, particularly since covid-19 has dramatically affected the economy. When I’m asked about the coronavirus it’s usually paired with questions about a potential recession so let’s separate the corona pandemic from an economic recession and dive into both.
Right now, both the art market and economy are very volatile due to the coronavirus but it feels, at least to me, that many collectors are visualizing the pandemic as a confined period which will rebound sooner or later. This is leading many collectors to hold onto works as opposed to selling and off-loading inventory in a panic like what happened with the 2008 recession. With that said, many collectors certainly aren’t buying currently like they were. Essentially, I feel the market’s in this limbo waiting to see what happens next.
That will change drastically if we enter a recession, a period of prolonged economic downturn (6 months of consistent economic decline). During the last recession we saw many mass market artists with thousands and thousands of works out there (especially those with excessive prints and multiples) flooding the market including Andy Warhol, Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, etc. in desperation. Many new collectors gravitate to these larger known artists first and when the economy and financial stability becomes uncertain, they see their collection as very liquid and begin panic selling. Massive amounts of works by these artists entered the market between 2008-2009 leading to poor performance for each artist with low overall auction turnover, excessively high numbers of works being put up for sale, drastically lower average prices per work being realized, and unbelievably high bought-in rates (percentage of lots unsold). And that’s just at auction, the private market was just as chaotic.
It’s interesting to know that coveted artists with a smaller body of work like Degas, Basquiat, and Monet were much less effected by the recession as well. Degas actually had his strongest year in the past two decades in 2008 with 111 Million in auction turnover. While many top level artists with smaller catalogs did see a decrease in auction turnover due to the recession, for many the number of works sold remained equally low keeping their markets stable.
So to answer your question, I think currently the market is waiting to see what’s in store for the economy long term. Be it a return to stability or we enter a recession."
Jason - "It seems only yesterday we was dealing with the heavy hits of the global recession, which caused house prices to drop, stock markets to crash, unemployment hitting eye watering numbers and yet, during the crash the art market was hitting records, for example Damien Hirst’s trailblazing two-day auction at Sotheby’s had made a total of £111m, that was a record for a one-artist auction and ten times the previous record total, which was set by an auction of Picasso’s work in 1993.
With that said, the ongoing issue with COVID-19 will certainly have an impact on galleries, auction houses and dealers."
DA - "what do you see changing as a result of this unforeseen situation? "
Daria - "When all of this is over, the art world will be vastly different than before the covid-19 crisis. The art world is currently going through a complete migration to the virtual world, it would be interesting to see if we maintain this online presence.
Some galleries were suffering for a long time before the covide-19 crisis, my guess is that smaller and perhaps younger galleries will not recover from this crisis. Museums, galleries and auction houses have furloughed thousands of employees in order to save cost and hopefully reopen their doors when this is over. Many museums around the world are having a difficult time as they are reliant on admission fees, and I expect some will not survive.
Both artists and galleries are coming up with new creative ideas to adjust to the situation. For example mega dealer David Zwigner announced that they would be introducing a new online resource called ‘Platform: New York,’ a online viewing room hosted on Davis Zwirner's website that will feature a presentation of works from 12 independent NYC galleries. Another great example is an online exhibition 'How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This' co-curated by Anne Verhallen and Barbara Pollack. The curators
exhibition will continue to post a new artists every day for the foreseeable future."
Matt - "If I had to guess, and this is just my assumption, I think a lot of new collectors who gravitated towards the big name contemporary mass market artists will begin liquidating at high rates soon and you’ll see a lot of works entering the market. It’s an opportunity for collectors with disposable income to get works at low rates."
Jason - "The crisis has revealed the interlinked nature of the art world, all propping up one another. Galleries are sharing knowledge, with larger businesses who have financial departments passing on advice to smaller ones. It’s refreshing to see galleries and companies coming together to work through these issues we face. May it continue."
DA - "What is your advice to collectors out there wondering if now is a good time to Buy/Sell? "
Daria - "My advice is to take this time to research which artists they want to collect. Learn as much as they can about the art market before making a move. Make sure to work with a good and trustworthy advisor to help you navigate through the process. My prediction is that prices will continue to go down, there will be brilliant works available on the secondary market that would normally be difficult to get your hands on."
Matt - "In terms of selling, I think it depends entirely on the artist and your original investment strategy as well as your personal finances and the necessity for cash on hand. If your original concept was to hold onto a work by a market proven artist for a decade or more and you’re financially stable for the foreseeable future, I wouldn’t rush to sell. If you’re concerned about your finances or recently purchased a popular artist with the idea of a short term / high return investment strategy, I would begin to think about selling if you can find someone to buy.
As far as buying, I think we’ll see a lot of interesting works entering the market in the near future for very compelling prices, particularly if we enter into a true recession. About a year ago when whispers of a recession were floating around long before the coronavirus, I directed some of my collectors to offload some contemporary prints and multiples including KAWs, Murakami, and a few Koons works when they could still get somewhat of a premium, and in-turn use that capital to reinvest if we did enter a recession to allocate pieces at reduced rates. I also sold a few works. We’ll see how it plays out but I think they’re feeling comfortable with the trades made now with all things considered.
In short, when It comes to buying I would hold out for a little longer to see if things get really hairy but I would start following the auctions now, especially Artnet who are regularly putting up works. I’ve already seen a few prints that went for very compelling rates."
Jason - "In every crisis comes opportunity, but our advice at Leonards Art is the same now as it was before the crisis. Hire an art advisor, it’s important to find someone you can trust. Quality over quantity, buy one or 2 good paintings instead of 10 average ones. Collect artists that repeat themselves, it’s important the artist continues to create a movement. Lastly, follow the money, many have tried to go against movements within the art market and have failed. If people are buying let’s say Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring, then it’s a safe bet to follow these trends"
DA - "What positives do you see coming out of this situation"?
Daria - "The good news is that this too shall pass, and let’s hope with as limited damage as possible. The art Market is winning over the stock market, people actually can control the value of their investments. In Art We Trust. Forever."
Matt - "Because so much auction data from the 2008 recession has been cataloged In databases and we have a reference to study, I think collectors can be much more savvy to the opportunity that a down economy can present to allocate works at a low prices. There’s tons of historical information out there that can be used for your benefit if you know where to look that just wasn’t available during let’s say the 2008 recession to help make strategic decisions. Technology is a massive asset to modern collectors and if you know where and how to use it, I think you can collector at a much more informed level and really take advantage of a down economy."
Jason - "What happens when normal life resumes is unclear. The economic future is frightening, but there are indications to suggest that the U.K will weather the storm better than elsewhere. The best case scenario is that the crisis will act as a reset button for the art industry and we can use this time to build again stronger."
We hope that these conversations were insightful, and maybe even acted as a small distraction from the situation at hand. It is time for the art world to come together in order to support each other, to prevent job loss and to provide inspiration to those who seek it. Stay safe, be kind to each other, follow the guidelines and we will emerge stronger than before.