The virtual reality of the Art Industry

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The ongoing scenario has pushed art to move online which results in shutting down of commercial art galleries along with artists getting unemployed, auction houses faced a loss of 22% globally.

22nd May | Sreya Mullick

Fig 1: Pictures hanging on museum walls. Pic: Sreya Mullick

A report by The Art Market 2021, shows many commercial art galleries’ trade went down by 40%. The art and antique sales value dropped from $64 billion to $50billion worldwide. The drop occurs due to the cancellation of auctions and in-person events.

Due to the cancellation of public events and exhibitions, local and migratory artists are toiling in search of buyers. Durga Prasad, an artist from Gujarat says, “I have worked with the famous Time and Space gallery of Bangalore for 5 years. In this pandemic I am struggling to find buyers, the gallery has helped me by putting up my artworks for sale.” The gallery is selling the artworks at a discount of 15%. “Earlier I used to sell 10-12 artworks in a year, which has decreased to 2-3 in the last year,” says Durgaprasad.

Fig2: Graph showing fall in sales.

With the industry moving online, it affects the global market art sales. The sales of commercial art galleries have witnessed a drop by 40% and many art galleries have shut down, merged, or have been taken over.

The gallery, Time and Space, Bangalore which is an old-school gallery do not support the idea of moving online. The owner of the gallery, Renu George believes the essence of art can only be felt physically. “As Time and Space is an old school art gallery, we are not willing to move online. Since we don’t have rent issues, we are mainly focused on showcasing art in a physical space which is why we have put a cap on the number of walk-ins,” says George.

Since the announcement of the Global pandemic, the art galleries are running on losses. “Our gallery was closed during the lockdown which has affected our sales very badly. Right now the gallery is running in losses but we are hopeful the sales will gear up as we have customers who contact us over email and are still willing to buy from a physical gallery,” says George.

Art Galleries shifting online

The word “gallery” brings the thought of a physical space where artworks of various artists are being hung. A change in the art industry has occurred post breakdown of the deadly virus. It has reduced direct and physical access to art and has increased indirect and online access.

The art gallery, Crimson Art Gallery, Bangalore has decided to move online as the lessening in the number of walk-ins and physical presence has worse affected their sales. “We have accepted the change and have shifted our focus to online. We have given out some spaces from the gallery and at the same time we have extended our reach online,” says the owner of Crimson Gallery, Silloo Daruwalla.

Due to the absence of offline exhibitions and events people have lost interest in investing in art. The gallery came up with an online exhibition  Gaja involving artists from all over the world. “It was our first online exhibition, and as people are still skeptical about the whole concept of buying art online, the exhibition was not that successful. But we are confident it will gain more buyers in the future when the audience will be accustomed to the whole process,” says Daruwalla.

Digital Art

When the art galleries and museums are closing down, the Digital Art world is blooming at the same time. There is a continuous rise in the number of workshops done online, many people are getting themselves recruited in the workshops to kill the leisure.

With the increase in workshops, the sale of digital art is also increasing. Digital Artist of Bangalore, Pooja Srinivasan says, “I have been holding workshops and was selling my products online much before the pandemic but during the lockdown, my sales have boosted up by 33%. The number of people attending my workshops has also increased.”

The closing down of everything starting from museum exhibitions, art fairs, and auctions, the pandemic has forced the art world to move online.

The importance of art during this pandemic has been explained by Ritu Vajpeyi-Mohan, Publisher of DAG, quoted by National Herald.

“We need art through the good and the bad. For an art lover, luxury is a necessity; it is essential to help us maintain our equilibrium in these trying times”, says Ritu Vajpeyi-Mohan, Publisher, DAG (Delhi Art Gallery).


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