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Covid-19 is changing the art market

As the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) opens, how has the art market adapted to the crises caused by the pandemic? Gallerists and auction houses have not been satisfied with their backs. They invented new ways to support their artists and maintain their profits. The most noted is the spectacular acceleration of online sales, with varying success, however: the contemporary art fairs which have tried the experiment have not really convinced.

Because fairs are above all places of physical encounter. Until its reopening in “face-to-face” a month ago, Art Basel (but also its extensions in Miami and Hong Kong) had for example imagined a virtual stand – “Online Viewing Rooms” – where parades hung on a chair rail just as imaginary pictures of paintings offered by the selected galleries. As a joke, there was even a virtual bench to virtually sit on. But sales were meager and many galleries preferred to develop their own sites.

Digital art

Long accustomed to accepting auctions by telephone, auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s and their sisters, on the other hand, have found remarkable development on the Internet, even capturing a new clientele of millennials (under 40). Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s, announced that 31% of his new clients were now recruited through this means. According to him, they are mainly interested in digital art, and particularly in this novelty that are nonfungible tokens (“Non-fungible tokens”, NFT). We no longer buy a work but its digital certificate of authenticity. The first sale of this type organized by his house in March 2021 was a thunderclap with a record of 69.3 million dollars (57.8 million euros) reached by a work of a certain Beeple, to little nearly unknown until then, Everydays: the First 5 000 Days. “During this sale, writes Mr. Cerutti, 33 clients bidding from 12 different countries; 29 were new to Christie’s and 21 were under 40, many of whom came from the new technology or cryptocurrency industries. “

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According to Artprice, a company specializing in the analysis of auctions, NFTs now represent 2% of the art market, which, for a product – we use this term on purpose – of very recent creation is a notable result. Not to be outdone, at the beginning of October Sotheby’s announced the creation of a specialized department, with a digital space for collectors and the biennial organization of NFT sales called “Natively Digital”. The first took place in June. The house accepts payments in cryptocurrency …

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