Lockdown orders have forced galleries to shutter, causing many to shift their auctions to online endeavors. Surprisingly a recent wave of record auction sales have boosted the art world.
Perhaps the most notable sale as of today is a Francis Bacon triptych that sold for $84.6 million at Sotheby’s on June 29. Although, some galleries assure that this is far from a “boom” saying sales are down 75%, others are flourishing. Consultant Veronica Fernandez says that June and July of 2020 “have been two of the busiest months (in 15 years). I’m grateful but exhausted.” In just one recent week, Fernandez facilitated more than $500,000 in art sales with a single New York gallery: “It hasn’t all landed in my lap, either. I’ve had to board a plane to Colorado, drive hundreds of miles down to Tucson and up to the Bay Area to keep it all going.”
“Because of the restrictions on travel, collectors are looking where to disburse expendable income,” says Fernandez. “And people spend when they’re depressed. In buying art, there’s that trickle-down, feel-good factor of supporting a gallery and an artist.”
With the big international fairs like Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze New York going virtual, collectors and gallerists are saving collective millions on travel and shipping fees. Some of those funds have been funneled into trading art — while the shift has opened sales to a new kind of buyer, one who might be a little less experienced than the average jet-setting collector. “All the prices are out there,” explains art advisor Elizabeth Margulies, referring to so many galleries’ now having online viewing rooms for exhibitions. “It’s become that much easier to buy.”
What we’re really seeing is the market’s resilience in the Age of COVID-19 boils down to one factor: having too much money to worry about things like pandemics.