An Opportunity to Reinvent the Central European Art Market
Global art fairs with collectors travelling across the world, blockbuster exhibitions involving international loans and largely event-driven art business became near-obsolete at the outset of the pandemic. A new lifeline materialised in the digital environment, which the broadly conservative art market had tried to avoid as long as possible. In the first half of 2020, online-only auction sales increased by 497% and total online sales volume for galleries grew from 10 to 37% according to the Art Basel and UBS ‘Art Market 2020’ Report. Traditional rivals have been forced to collaborate in order to cut costs and share clients, as well as create wider platforms to support their smaller business peers. Displaying art works with their price or price range has become more common, resulting in greater transparency.
The pandemic has radically accelerated the changes that the art world was slow to adopt compared to other industries, leading to a more accessible and digestible environment. Galleries and auction houses have been creating sophisticated digital technologies and captivating content, including viewing rooms and virtual exhibitions, to reach a wider audience with educational context, and attract new buyers. According to the Report, 59% of the collectors surveyed said the pandemic had increased their collecting interest and 70% of millennial collectors said they now felt more inclined to buy art online.
However, online sales cannot fully replace the traditionally more lucrative live auctions and the experience of buying art in person. The after-effect of this pandemic era might be a hybrid landscape with online and offline activities mutually strengthening one another, which goes in hand with various environmental initiatives. With global fairs and international collaborations moving online, and a greater involvement in innovative and interactive local events, the new art world will emerge more sustainable, well-educated and interested in pure art.
Now is the right time to rethink current art business strategies in Central Europe, a region still predominantly focused on national markets with few international interactions. There are numerous similarities between the Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian art markets, which have yet to reach a thoroughly international level. There is a great potential for successful collaborations, bringing regional art communities together. Not only are international collectors increasingly recognising the quality of Central European art, but also local collectors are becoming more seasoned and eager to refine their collecting habits. It will be fascinating to see how the art scene in Central Europe evolves in the wake of such unprecedented, radical change. These shifting times will undoubtedly contribute to a more interconnected market in the region, which in turn will continue to strengthen its position internationally.
Anna Povejšilová, Christie’s Specialist in Impressionist and Modern Art
Barbora Půlpánová, Founder of the EDUART EXPERIENCE