With such a tough year behind us and a new year dawning imminently, I’ve been reflecting on how artists have adapted in 2020 and the initiatives they’ve taken to keep things moving.
The virus pandemic left London galleries closed and streets empty, and the lack of physical exposure for artists is undeniable. However, surprisingly, art sales may not have been as badly affected as feared due to innovations in the online market.
A saving grace of the pandemic is that people have been so confined within their homes they’ve looked to make them more attractive and appealing by purchasing art. As a bourgeoning collector myself, I’ve bought more art this year than ever before, commissioning two pieces in the last month. There’s something about seeing the same walls day-in and day-out that makes you want (need) them to ‘spark joy’ (to quote Marie Kondo). More plants, vases and art now brighten my interiors, while staying in constantly and spending less has helped me to actually afford it!
One catalyst for movement in online sales has been the ‘Artist Support Pledge’. Started in March by artist Matthew Burrows, the initiative aims to counteract a reduction in exposure caused by Covid-19. Artists post artwork for sale on Instagram for £200 or less and once they reach £1,000 in sales, they pledge to purchase another artist’s work, therefore continuing the flow of sales. It’s an admirable concept and one that has taken off significantly, now with over 80,000 followers.
Indeed, Instagram has become a powerful tool for artists and a much easier way to keep collectors informed of new work than trying to constantly update a website. As a curator, it’s my favourite, and easiest, way to research new talent.
Artists are also utilising exhibition ‘Virtual Tours’ to promote their work; a technology more often used by estate agents for remote house viewings. Virtual exhibitions allow viewers to explore entire galleries on their laptop or phone, grasping the scale of spaces whilst also being able to enlarge and view fine details in individual pieces. An example of this is Johnny Morant’s solo exhibition I curated at 60 Threadneedle Street, London, which can be toured virtually here.
London based artist Rob Dunt has found a way to promote his fellow creatives by producing an ‘Art Top 10’ featuring Zoom interviews with artists and curators. He publicises this via Instagram with interviews available on a bespoke website and YouTube channel , now displaying over 100 interviews.
During a time of such physical separation, it’s heartening to see artists working together to promote not only themselves, but to bolster each other and support the arts community as a whole. With gallery closures, art fair cancellations and the uncertainty of further lockdowns to come, artists must actively use social media and find innovative ways to expose their work to an online audience in order to navigate successfully through this difficult period.
Buyers need to get involved too, they’re essential. If you’re one of the lucky ones whose employment hasn’t been affected by Covid-19, consider purchasing a piece from that artist you’ve always admired. Visit their Instagram, they might even be participating in the Artist Support Pledge and offering something under £200 (which is probably a lot less than usual and could be a bargain that will appreciate in value!)
Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family happiness, health and success in 2021.