The digital is changing the art gallery system

    The traditional art galleries system is looking for new business models to avoid collapse.

    What are the ways to overcome it?

    If, as Matt Carey Williams, Victoria Miro’s Senior Director of Sales argues, a gallery measures its success based on increased sales, the challenge will be to make art more accessible to new audiences and new customers.

    How to attract an ever wider target, revolutionizing the idea that galleries can only target a small group of collectors? Among the various answers that can be found to this question, one is there for all to see: digital.

    What opportunities does digital development offer? What is the profile of the new collectors? Gallery owners and other professionals in the sector discussed these issues during the eighth edition of Talking Galleries, held in Barcelona in late January.

    In recent years, technology has questioned the traditional concepts of ownership and use of a work of art. Joe Kennedy, partner of the Unit London gallery, famous for having a very digital and oriented to social strategies, says that today a gallery needs to reconsider the profile of the collector.

    If traditionally the collector was a wealthy, middle-aged person, willing to visit the exhibitions personally, the new collector belongs to the generation of Millennials, he is smart, always connected, more inclined to get information on the Internet and through Instagram.

    Taking for granted the web presence of a gallery with a website and a profile on social media, according to Kennedy, models are needed that meet the new collector through online push activities, with an immediate and transparent service, full of content and interactive experiences to complete the cultural offer of the exhibition.

    The big galleries have already received Kennedy’s message. Just think of David Zwirner, who launched his Online Viewing Room in January 2017. Since then he has presented drawings, paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures, with prices ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 500,000. About 37% of requests for information received from the online portal came from new customers.

    Gagosian also opened its Online Viewing Room in 2018, active at key times of the year such as the Art Basel art fair. With this tool, collectors can view the works in detail and at maximum resolution, as well as consult essays and videos of the works available online. Finally, an assistant can be contacted via chat 24 hours a day.

    For a small or medium gallery, which does not have the opportunity to invest in new technologies, there are other ways of digital promotion. One of these is Instagram, considered the main marketing tool for art. There are also podcasts for art, used to reach even a non-specialized audience. Zwirner is experimenting with them, but also other galleries such as Sean Kelly and Lisson Gallery.

    The world of art is divided between those who believe that the internet is the future of the market and those who insist that to buy a work of art one must see it in person. Yet, as the Art Market Report 2020 published by Art Basel and UBS shows, both auction houses and galleries have seen an increase in turnover and customers through social media and editorial content. On this topic, on the occasion of Talking Galleries 2020, Elena Soboleva (Director of Online Sales at David Zwirner) and Olivia Mull (Director of Digital Marketing of Gagosian) debated moderated by Jane Morris (Editor – at – large of The Art Newspaper) . “For Zwirner, the online channel is like his seventh gallery, a space that has allowed him to show his identity beyond physical spaces” explained Elena Soboleva, whose digital strategy is proving to be a winning one for Zwirner. It is no coincidence that David Zwirner hired her as director of online sales, after being responsible for the special projects of Artsy, another player in the online art market that is increasingly establishing itself as a leader.

    In light of the considerations made in the Talking Galleries 2020 and following the analysis on online sales of the Art Market Report 2020 published by Art Basel and UBS, it can be said that galleries will only be able to grow and innovate if they can react quickly to changes such as those inevitably triggered by Coronavirus, adapting to new market dynamics, influenced by new technology and a new target audience.

    The challenge lies in finding business models that take into account the variables, capable of responding to the needs of traditional collecting and the ever-growing collection of Millennials.

    Among the technological solutions in favor of artists, gallery owners, collectors and operators in the sector we find Art Rights, a platform that supports the management and certification of its art collection, in complete security, privacy and autonomy, thanks to Blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence .

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