Artists Adapt in the Covidian Age
By F. Lennox Campello
Artists Adapt in the Covidian Age
As I have been hammering now for several issues, the Covidian Age has delivered significant shockwaves throughout the world, severely disrupting ancient business models all over the place.
While it can be argued that the current art business model was somewhat invented in the 19th and refined in the 20th century (can you imagine an original Picasso being sold in the early part of the 20th century in a framing shop in Paris?), the Covidian monster has nonetheless put a nearly full stop on the commodification of art.
Yeah, yeah… we’ve got the Internet and virtual art, etc….but even though I have been all onboard with the clear model of having a solid and powerful web presence as an artist, and for dealers, and advisors, and anyone who wants to make money through the creation, distribution and sales of art, and having created my first art website in 1992, and having received millions of clicks/visitors to various art websites, I can still tell you that my empirical experience has provided evidence that most people – at least when it comes to emerging artists – and collectors like to see it in person, chat with the dealer or artist, become peripherally involved/invested in the art – before they make the plunge to buy it.
Not always, but a vast larger percentage of the times.
With that in mind, in the midst of the Covidian Age, artists must adapt and react to Covidism, and the answer is clearly not to sit around, grumbling about face masks, and finding politicians to blame for human decisions which may not suit your political flavor of the moment.
Adaptation is the only temporal solution.
And (so far), adaptation has been solely based on the virtual model that I’ve just finished bashing a few paragraphs ago.
How’s that for a sudden turnaround?
In the last two decades or so, via this column I’ve probably written multiple times on the importance of having an artistic digital footprint. If you, as an artist or dealer do not yet endorse that view, then you’re either too much of a dinosaur or perfectly happy being in your studio creating artwork, and could care less if anyone sees it or buys it.
If that makes you happy – then stick to it. Happiness is a great asset.
But, if like many of us, the happiness is augmented by having someone shell out their hard earned cash to acquire something that you have created, and in turn that “something” gives them visual happiness, then you must adapt… or at least try.
The art fair model – which I’ve also proselytized via this column multiple times over the year – has all but been destroyed by the surprisingly tenacious virus which allegedly came from bats.
So what have art fairs done?
Faced with the loss of a super easy cash cow of money (art galleries paying large sums of money in order to participate in an art fair in Miami, or New York, or London, etc.), they’ve started doing virtual art fairs.
Why is this of any interest to an emerging artist from Alexandria, or Fairfax, or any other part of the DMV or that matter… the planet?
It matters because perhaps this new virtual model has opened a temporary door for unrepresented artists to crack the “art fair model” and get into this virtual fair – thus setting a presence and history with the fair management and quite probably an easy entry point to the “real” fairs once the Covidian monster has been tamed and art fairs return to the vast halls of Miami Beach and other venues around the world.
In some cities, their local museums have come to the aid of their local artists and organized virtual exhibitions to support them. Don’t expect that in the DMV. As I’ve noted before, every once in a while I get to go on the Kojo Nmandi radio show on WAMU to discuss DC area visual art stuff… and at one of those radio shows, many years ago, I was discussing the lack of interest, or better still, apathy, that most Washington area museum curators exhibit (pun intended) towards our DMV area artists.
In what was to become a battle cry of the ignored, I noted that “it was easier for a local DC area museum curator or director to take a cab to Dulles to catch a flight to Berlin, or London, Madrid, or even Havana (before it was OK to hang around with dictators), etc. in order to visit an emerging artist’s studio, than to take a cab to Alexandria, or Georgetown, or Arlington, or Rockville to do the same.”
Information is key! DMV artists need to plug into virtual knowledge fountains such as East City Art (www.eastcityart.com), which not only delivers art reviews of area shows, but is also a great source of information for art calls, grants, etc.
These weird times have also opened another door for artists: the secondary art market. I am not talking about the major art houses, those remain the exclusive domain of the 0.0001% members of the rarified upper crust of the artmosphere. But there are hundreds of other auction houses around the nation, and since now all sales are 100% online, a lot of them have started to put of auction lots of contemporary, lesser known artists.
The bottom feeder of the art world is Ebay, which in Covidian times has possibly become the best place on the planet to somewhat dispose of those otherwise unsellable art school projects that are still cluttering your flat files. You can now get up to 200 Ebay listings for free (I suspect only during the Covidian Epoch).