The art world in the wake of COVID-19

Jerry Saltz takes a sobering, thought-provoking look at where the art world may find itself in the wake of COVID-19. Anyone involved or adjacent to this world knows how much it has been struggling in the last few decades. Will the current global pandemic spell an end to the many small, scrappy art institutions and business models that have already been hanging on by a thread? And if so, what new models might emerge in the aftermath?

I believe the pandemic could spell the end of art fairs except Art Basel, which owns its own convention hall in Switzerland, and maybe Frieze — the Brits love big, glitzy, theatrical tent-city productions. (I do not think many galleries will mourn this loss.) Unfortunately, auctions may be the cockroach in the art-world coal mine. They don’t require much of a physical footprint; much of what they do is done digitally and online. I wonder, however, if the regular dick-waving rituals of establishing hierarchy and financial clout will be performed if they aren’t performed in public.

What about writers? Art magazines and blogs depend on advertisers, but what will those advertisers advertise? Are art galleries still paying previous ad contracts to art magazines to advertise shows that aren’t happening? A generation ago, newspapers and magazines supported hundreds or even thousands of professional art critics. The recent decline of the business means that that number has been cut by a factor of ten at least, and a prolonged period of economic suffering will probably accelerate that trend as well.

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