Over the last month, we have chuckled at bored lockdowners recreating famous artworks out of household objects for Instagram and have delighted in adding notable paintings from the Met and Getty Museum’s online collections to our Animal Crossing digital homes. Large galleries and museums are experiencing record web traffic numbers as people traverse virtual galleries on their screens and tune into art lectures on video calls.
On the surface, the picture is a pretty one, but with art institutions’ very visible efforts to stay afloat it is easy to forget the worry outlook. Many top establishments are rapidly losing income, with numerous of them forced to furlough or layoff staff. Art schools, such as the renowned San Francisco Art Institute, will not be taking on new cohorts of students next year and the future of even major art fairs, like the Frieze, looks uncertain. The world leaders, with governmental bail outs, might survive the coronavirus crisis, but smaller galleries, local museums, and independent artists (without cash reserves to support them) are likely to go under in the next few months. The pandemic has served to show the inequalities in a business that is all too often perceived as high-end luxury.
There is, however, hope that that the ‘new normal’ that follows the COVID-19 crisis, will spell a better future for the art world. With the end of the age infinite expansion, spiralling auction prices and super-collectors, we could see the industry return to what it was about all along (and what is even more important now) connectedness and bringing people together in shared experience and appreciation of beauty. Whilst professional artists might lose their income and studios, a new wave of artists without formal training who learnt on their kitchen tables will emerge. Art is about self-expression and if in these hard times there is nothing to say, then that should be our real worry!
Those applying for Art History may wish to examine the impact of an increased internet presence on the art market and collections. Applicants for Fine Art might wish to investigate how confinement has influenced their own and other artists works.