Because of Covid19, NY galleries reinventing themselves

In New York, a year of unprecedented crisis particularly shook galleries and led them to reassess their role, priorities, and methods of operation. New York galleries are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in their history. The health crisis forced their activity to stop abruptly, and the economic turmoil posed immense threats to their future. Over the past year, gallery owners and dealers have realized that, pandemic or not, the sector needs to change and reinvent itself. Richard Taittinger, who owns a gallery on the Lower East Side, recalls: "We were all surprised by the sudden shutdown in mid-March; we were in shock. "A few days before the start of the first confinement, in March 2020, the Armory Show fair was still in full swing, with a little frost and a few elbow bows but without a mask or a lot of distancing. Suddenly, galleries find themselves with closed spaces for which rent still has to be paid (which sometimes represents up to 40% of their budget) and activity at half-mast. The annual Art Basel / UBS report on the state of the art market estimates that the sector's worldwide turnover fell 36% during this period. In New York, it's worse: "We came close to 65% at one point," comments Sean Kelly, owner of a gallery in the brand new district of Hudson Yards. "Quickly, you have to organize the whole structure remotely", continues Richard Taittinger, who retains his entire team. Several New York companies announce the unpaid leave of their employees: "We are dedicated to the secondary market, we make the networks work thoroughly, and we realize some interesting "deals." "From new practices are put in place to continue to keep it afloat sector. Kate Werble, gallery owner from the Upper East Side, imagines a subscription service: collectors choose a group of three unique works by three different artists that they receive over four months at home for $ 500 (€ 415) monthly. "It allows me to stay in touch with artists and clients", she explains. Ten months later, Kate Werble sold most of the 45 groups she had put up for sale. To replace its Hong Kong edition which was to take place from March 19 to 21, 2020, Art Basel is launching its first "online exhibition rooms". Most of the major New York galleries follow suit and adopt the model of virtual exhibitions to compensate for the closure of their spaces. Smaller galleries sometimes have more difficulty in developing such tools. Still, initiatives are being put in place: David Zwirner, one of the city's most important gallery owners, is launching "Platform: New York" at the end of March to allow to twelve more modest sisters to present their exhibitions on its site. Those who take the turn of the online space then see certain advantages: "We were able to reach new audiences all over the world," commented at Pace, another giant in the sector which plans to continue using these tools. For his first virtual exhibition, a solo show by artist Maria Qamar, Richard Taittinger takes advantage of the new format. He organizes a simultaneous opening in New York, Mumbai, London, and Tokyo, this entirely on the Zoom platform. Twenty thousand visitors flock to its site on the first day, and a third of the works are sold. He sees a symbol: "The art world before the Covid had to change. The Covid gives us the opportunity to put into practice the ideas we already had. " "Let's be where our customers are" If New York remains the epicenter of the world art market, galleries no longer hesitate to leave Manhattan to follow collectors. In the summer of 2020, Pace and then Per Skarsedt opened premises in the Hamptons, a seaside resort popular with the New York elite, where several great fortunes settled at the start of the health crisis. They were soon joined by five other merchants in what began to form a small "gallery district" in the town of East Hampton. Anticipating that some buyers could spend the winter in Florida, Marc Glimcher, president of Pace, is also flowing to Palm Beach. Many of the Top 200 collectors on the ArtNews site own homes there, and the luxury real estate market is booming there. "Let's be flexible. Let's be where some of our clients are," summarizes Dominique Lévy, co-founder of the Lévy Gorvy gallery. Last December, she set up a "pop-up", or temporary presentation, in Miami (Florida), in the Design District where five other New York galleries joined her, then opened another in Palm Beach in January. : "It reminds me of the circus; you don't come to the circus, it's the circus that comes to you, and it's different each time. "That same month, she also invests Aspen, Colorado ski resort grouse, for two weeks. Lehmann Maupin had already launched his pop-up there in August 2020, with some success: "We immediately felt that this would be the model to follow: bring the works to regions that have large communities of collectors," comments Carla Camacho, sales director. With the pop-up revolution, galleries are rethinking their role. When large virtual fairs struggle to seduce, they maintain the physical encounter between works and collectors. For Steve Henry, director of the Paula Cooper gallery, this shows that "there is a limit to online showrooms". Carla Camacho adds: "Collectors very often need an event or an exhibition to get excited. " Virtual exhibitions such as pop-ups show that accessibility is at the heart of New York gallery owners' thinking today. For some of them, this is what explains the success of "non-fungible tokens" or "NFT": they facilitate exchanges and promise more transparency. Pace has just hired its first online sales manager and is preparing to accept cryptocurrency for physical works this fall. For Richard Taittinger, this tool makes it possible in particular to "open the doors to the new generation, which does not adhere to the traditional codes of art". NFTs are accelerating the major transformations in the sector, which have been brewing for some time: "The way of communicating changes, technology evolves, diffusion increases. We are only at the beginning. " © Le Journal des Arts, - Bartholomew Glama

Because of Covid19, NY galleries reinventing themselves

In New York, a year of unprecedented crisis particularly shook galleries and led them to reassess their role, priorities, and methods of...