Thursday, November 06, 2008

Art and Recession: Time to Adapt

Art and Recession

It appears that the current status of the economy may have delivered the final blow over the success of the art market. Many had thought that the booming art market would continue to thrive regardless of the financial crisis facing the global economy. Today is a new day-- and it is not exactly better. There is great fear that the financial bubble surrounding the traditional aspects of the art market may finally burst. Could it be that the art world recession has finally come? Are we already there? These questions and more plague the thoughts of art dealers at this time. The need to adapt is now.

I'm not convinced that we are 'there' yet. However, if the art market continues to sour we will most likely witness artists forced into obscurity while gallery doors close for the last time. It has been estimated, as mentioned on this blog recently, that if a downward spiral occurs it could result in the closing of over 50 galleries in New York alone. If this happens careers-- artists, curators, and other art related professionals-- may stagnate and emerging artists will find traditional exhibit involvement to be even more difficult to accomplish.

For example, I’m already getting reports from emerging artists who have stated that exhibits that had been planned for months have now been cancelled. Insiders have also warned that major contemporary art fairs may be forced to hold off until the economy is more stable. It is very likely that the situation could turn into a waiting game. That said, I would not count the art market out just yet-- though it does pay to be wary and to learn to truly adapt to the situation by utilizing the technology of today.

These concerns are warranted due to a drop in transactions between art dealers and art buyers at recent major art fairs in the UK. In the US the art market has been delivered another blow due to major sales by Sotheby's and Christie's in New York that were millions of dollars below their lowest estimated prices. The brick & mortar galleries are having a tough time, the art fairs are having a tough time, and now the auction houses are having a tough time in this unstable market. Needless to say, the art market has dodged more than a few bullets and has taking a few hits in stride as the financial crisis unfolds. To put it bluntly, there is enough fear to go around, but there are also people putting up one hell of a fight to sustain the art market as best they can. The question is-- will the good fight be enough to keep the art market in the ring, so to speak?

It is no secret that the success of the art market is often only as strong as the status of the economy. The two walk hand-in-hand. If the economy is strong the art market is strong. The best example of this is the art market of the 1980s and how the art market had a harsh fall in the early 1990s. However, the thing to remember is that the art market always bounces back-- sometimes a little bit before the economy does. Also, the art market of today is far different than the art market of the early 1990s. Today the art market is truly global. That factor may help to sustain the art market when everthing is said and done.

Think of it this way-- the number of international collectors has drastically increased in recent years. There has also been an increase in younger art collectors compared to the recent past. Thus, one could say that the art market is down on one leg, but that does not mean that it is out for the count. Collectors from India, China, and young collectors throughout the world may serve as a lifeline. In that sense, I think that some galleries may learn to appreciate ecommerce and other marketing strategies that are considered unconventional by the blunt of the art world at this time-- such as utilizing online social networking for exposure and global reach.

In closing, when the market changes a good business person will learn to adapt to those changes. That involves more than just saying, "I can adapt". I know a lot of art dealers who claim to adapt, but in all honesty they do not. Key figures involved with the art market are being bombarded by questions concerning the financial crisis. At this rate I believe we will know some of the answers by the start of 2009.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


paula said...

i don't even know if it is important if artist are around. thats the feeling i get. what good does art really do? can you tell me that?

Balhatain said...

Well, for one art tends to push society forward. Imagine what the world would be like without the arts. Without visual language civilization would have never reached the point it is at today. I'm glad you commented about this. I might write a topic about this very issue in order to stress my view of it. Thanks.

paula said...

look forward to reading that post if you write it as you seem to have a talent for writing about art.

i'm bitter and cynical right now and feel as if art has no purpose save to the creator and depending on the day that purpose is to drive them insane. Without visual language civilization would have never reached the point it is at today. depending on the day i'm not so sure that is a good thing.
forgive me right now i'm just sick of people saying they love my art and want it and i offer discounts and payments and NADA. It's not even expensive and i'm sick of it.

In fact, please write that post soon, I need it!

Anonymous said...

even the silos...

LA's MoCA is having their own woes and are
planning to shut their doors completely
for three weeks in Jan/Feb. We'll see what
the aftermath of that will be.

SaraghA said...

Happy to have found this blog.

Something I've been stewing over a lot in the last few weeks is what makes contemporary art "good". Who is it for? What is it's best defense in times of economic instability?

I believe art for art's sake is totally over. It doesn't hold water anymore, and it loses sympathy for the arts. It's time that our bubble was burst, that the real world and the art world looked each other in the eye again.

I've also been wrestling with thoughts of disillusionment within contemporary art. I've talked about it more at length in my blog: