How To Buy Art During the Covid-19 Pandemic

With numerous galleries forced to close and the world’s big art fairs cancelled, the way we buy art has been completely transformed. Julian Usher, Red Eight Gallery’s Sales Director, shares his expert tips on how to buy art during a global pandemic and ponders whether the art world will ever be the same after this strangest of years.

View Online, And Again In Person

The biggest change over the course of the pandemic has been the move online. Whereas pre-Covid-19 collectors and investors would view and buy artwork in person, most activity has now shifted online. In the first half of 2020 alone, online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips generated $370 million. One outstanding example is the recent online auction at Sotheby’s featuring 144 lots from the Keith Haring Foundation. Entitled “Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring”, the sale achieved sales of $4.6m or three times the presales estimate.

The art world has also embraced online viewing rooms, such as those set up by Art Basel Hong Kong in March at the very beginning of the pandemic. With no galleries and exhibitions to visit, David Zwirner set up an online viewing room for a month called ‘Platform: New York’, hosting 12 smaller New York galleries. This brand-new format enables collectors and investors to get a feel for an artwork or artist before committing, although I always advise clients to view a piece that you love in person before making a final decision.

Get To Know Your Gallery

According to research from the recent Art Basel/UBS art market report, 41% of HNW collectors who bought art during 2020 focused only on galleries they had worked with before. I highly recommend taking the time to build a relationship with a smaller gallery who can offer you more of their time and greater flexibility. Here at Red Eight we like to really get to know our clients so we can confidently offer work that is an excellent fit for their needs and will deliver the returns they are looking for.

Focus On Emerging Artists

Here at Red Eight, we’re noticed a dramatic uptick in interest in up-and-coming artists. Collectors and investors are keen to support emerging artists during these stark times for creatives, and that is translating into a healthy market for contemporary art from rising stars.  This trend is being echoed by big art buyers and corporate collections. Earlier this month Deutsche Bank announced plans to sell off around 200 artworks to shift the focus of its corporate collection to contemporary and emerging artists. According to the bank, profits are expected to be in the “low double-digit million range”, funds that will be used to invest in  “up-and-coming artistic talents”.

Art That Gives Back

Art enthusiasts are also keen to give back to the local community where possible. Our recent release of limited edition hand-signed prints by acclaimed street artist Panik to raise funds to support vulnerable young people in North London sold out within hours. This huge success is a testament to the generosity of our Red Eight clients, and I look forward to raising a celebratory glass with every one of you when social distancing rules allow!

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