We’re Back in Business | COVID 19 and the Art Market

[image above: Ana Maria Botero – “After Midnight” – sold May 9]


Arizona is in the process of relaxing restrictions on retail businesses. As of Friday, we were able to open our gallery, though with some modifications. We have implemented a sterilization protocol for high-touch areas of the gallery, we are enforcing distancing, limiting staff and the number of concurrent visitors in the gallery, and are open for reduced hours. The health and safety of staff and clients is paramount.

The situation is certainly far from ideal. Most of the galleries in our area are still closed, and there’s very little foot-traffic on our street. In spite of this, we did have several sales out of the gallery over the weekend! Two came from visitors who wandered in when they saw we were open, and one was the result of an email we sent out announcing that we would be reopening.

It is very exciting to have the doors open again and to be creating some sales, but there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead.  How long will it be before clients feel comfortable venturing out? What will happen if the easing of restrictions leads to a surge in new Covid-19 cases?

We are continuing to push forward with our online and social media marketing campaigns, and expect them to remain the primary drivers of our business for the foreseeable future.

Stay tuned.

Are You Seeing Businesses Open?

Are businesses in your area beginning to open? If you show your art in galleries, are you hearing reports that the galleries are opening? Are you seeing continued sales online? Share your updates and experiences in the comments below.


About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Hi Jason
    I am happy to hear that Xanadu has reopened. My first quarter sales were good this year, 2/3 of them due to my email campaigns and the other 1/3 on Facebook and through galleries. All seven of the galleries representing my paintings across Ontario closed their doors in mid March and switched their efforts to online sales, but I have sold nothing since the end of March. The good news is, I just delivered a batch of new artwork last week to one of the galleries, located in a high end tourist resort, that is reopening on May 20. I hope the situation continues to improve.

  2. Sadly no… Illinois is still locked down and businesses are closed. The Governor warned that churches may not open for services until after a vaccine is available. Friends in the bar, music, performance, beautician, chiropractic and art businesses here are struggling to survive.

  3. Montana galleries are open, and the galleries that represent me say foot traffic is picking up as, this week, restaurants too start to open. Meanwhile, I had the pleasant surprise of an on line sale to a new collector from out of town, who saw my work last Fall.

  4. I’m in Maryland, where as of last week we were still seeing 1200 new cases a day. So I don’t think most people in this state are anxious for businesses to reopen and make the situation more dangerous, despite the difficulties that are being faced by businesses and the public. There were some limited steps taken toward reopening, but the process will probably happen slowly. A boon for artists is that people are stuck at home (and many are bored), and therefore have the time to read our promotional emails and visit our websites. I usually have two home sales per year–in June for the public and November privately– which account for 60% of my annual sales. But this year, sadly, do not truly expect to be able to have either sale. I also expect my gallery sales to be reduced substantially, because they are all in high tourist locations, but am hoping for the best and that the galleries will come up with proactive ways to reach customers who are foregoing travel. I am selling work through newsletters and emails to individual collectors, and also sent my newsletter list in a newsletter collaboration with a gallery to promote my work in that gallery, which resulted in some sales and a commission. Sales continue to drift in, and I’ll continue to promote virtually as much as possible.

  5. Hi everyone,

    I’m a carver/jeweler living in New Zealand.
    We have been in varying degrees of lockdown for the last 6 weeks and are just moving down another level this Thursday. The new level means shops and galleries can now open with extra cleaning + social distancing.

    If anything I’ve noticed a lot more work over this time. I do have an established FB (7.5K) and instagram (1.5K) following which I think is the reason for this. There are a lot of other artists over here who just sell through galleries and are really struggling now.

    My take away is that you really need your own online presence – a website with shop and social media to safeguard your art business. In normal times it also supports and strengthens the galleries that show your work (I post on social media about my galleries) so its an advantage then too.


  6. You will be one of the survivors as you continued promoting during the down times. Those that have disappeared from view will likely be gone forever. Likely 50% of the galleries in Alberta where i am located will be gone for good as they had already stopped promoting a year ago before covid due to oil recession.
    By contrast i am publishing a new art book of my work and have another 2 on the way. Clients are reacting well, buying originals, prints and books. have 100,000 contacts going out digitally in next 2 weeks compared to effectively 0 for other artists/galleries. People still buy art in down times just not as much.
    But you learned to survive right from the start.
    Everything is still locked down here and will be so for a while yet.

  7. Hello, I was wondering if anyone had ideas for displaying and selling prints when our gallery reopens. Our coop gallery has a lot of print bins where our 2D artists have prints of their art for sale. The prints are in clear envelopes and have always been there for people to flip through. Clearly, that is probably not going to be a practical way to display and access them after we reopen. We would have to wipe them down, provide gloves, or who knows what else. Each artist normally has a wide variety of different prints each, and each artist has their own bin. Most of the artists derive a lot of regular income from the print sales.

    I suppose we could have the artist salesperson on duty help customers and only they would handle the prints, but we mostly have one salesperson on duty at a time so if we were lucky enough to get busy, that might be a problem.

    Anyway, there are probably good ways to deal with this and I would love to hear what other gallery folks are thinking as we prepare to reopen eventually.

    1. I am in a similar situation, Even though we have not re-opened yet, I have hundreds of prints in display bins as you described. Other than policing the gallery and handing out free gloves, and insisting they wear them, I have no idea how to address this.

      I am the only one manning my 1100 square foot gallery and as it is, I think I will have to limit gallery visits to one couple at a time.

      I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions that you or others may care to share.

      Best of luck – we’re going to need it.


    2. in the past i photographed everything and displayed one [or a series in themes] catalogue for clients to go through. they NEVER got to touch or handle the prints as the general public ruins them through improper handling. i had approx 20,000 prints for sale as i bought and sold entire publishing companies for many years. the catalogues are one way to deal with covid and to save damage as well. with proper use it will also generate more income for you than allowing clients to paw through your goods. with digital cameras why not build an online base accessed from an inhouse laptop or internet thus saving any printing costs.

      1. We don’t know when we may reopen here in California. So we are discussing these things now, before we open. So far we don’t have any suggestions, except having a hand sanitizer dispenser by the door and another by the counter. The bins are scattered all through the space. One concern that was brought up is the effect of sanitizer on the plastic wraps on the prints. Would it mess them up?

        I like Richard’s idea of making a catalogue of some sort. I had thought maybe like a contact sheet showing thumbnails of the prints and having the salesperson actually handle the print to show it to the client. Richard, may I share your method with our members?

  8. I sold some original artwork in April via Messenger and text. I did a portrait challenge in April on my FB fan page (Jani Freimann Fine Art) and the first of May and created 30 portraits in 40 days. Some of those originals sold to the ones who offered a photo for me to use and I gained 5 commissions. All while still doing almost all of my (part-time) housecleaning jobs. I live in Washington State. I am very grateful.

  9. Hi
    What specifically did you do for “safety”? It’s difficult to wipe down art that folks handle as they wander thru the gallery? Do you require masks like they do in my town? Does everyone have to squirt sanitizer before they come in?

    This is too stressful… reduced hours are not a bad thing. Did you enhance your insurance for any liability….if someone does the “tracing” back to your shop? Got to watch your back, I hate to say. I’m looking into that…
    Antsy in ATL

  10. Hi Jason, so glad to hear you are moving forward. We in Connecticut are still in the thick of it and don’t foresee much change before next month. Non essential businesses remain closed. I had to cancel an exhibition that was to go up in June. But the huge issue right now is that people are really afraid to go anywhere yet.

    Have used the time in quarantine to experiment with new ideas and work with different mediums but will be glad to get back to normal … whatever that is.

  11. Jason, Glad you all are open. I co-own a gallery in Albuquerque. As of today (May 12th), the NM Health Order will allow us to open May 15th at 20% capacity. We have decided to wait a while to see how things go. Part of the reason for the decision is that both of us are in our 60’s so we are in “at risk” categories. We have expanded our e-commerce, offer curbside pickup and delivery for locals and will encourage people to browse on-line before coming in.

    My question is like that of a few others. We can clean frequently touched places, but what about the artwork? Are you addressing this with signs since we can’t, nor should we, sanitize artwork. Grocery stores don’t clean items, but they have a quick turnover. So far we have not seen gallery specific guidelines for re-opening. Galleries are not like regular retail.

    1. We’re asking clients not to touch artwork, but for us, that’s not a huge issue, since we don’t deal in prints our other items that are typically handled by clients prior to purchase. Could you remove touchable art from the show floor temporarily to avoid the problem?

      1. We have potters, jewelers and fabric artists in our gallery. Unfortunately we can’t remove the touchable art. 🙁

  12. Hi Jason, Handling prints or any other “touchable” art can be a problem. How about using a primitive bamboo or wooden tong to flip through each print? That would be something easily sanitized between people. If someone wanted to see it out of the rack, the gallery sales person could lift and display it with gloves on. As far as other art, a simple sign that asked the customer to request help in selecting.

    Our gallery is still closed as is every other “non-essential” retail business in New Mexico. We are mandated to stay closed until May 15th. We will see what our governor decides is appropriate.
    In the meantime, we have had a few on-line sales and 2 gallery appointments for private viewing (with masks, disinfecting between visits and social distancing.) People are wanting to get back to normal, as are we, but we prefer to be as safe as we can.

  13. I have thinking about the issue of touching art and prints and it struck me that gas stations do not wipe down pump handles and grocery stores don’t wipe down all the cans and bottle and hundreds of other products. I’m sure there are many other examples. Are we worrying about something that maybe we shouldn’t.

    BTW, I am 65 years old with health issues, so I am very aware of the dangers of this virus and am not a denier in any way

    We can now open some retail on May 19th under certain restrictions. My gallery can open either as appointment only, or with considerable social distancing practices, etc. I have decided to go the appointment only option which will allow me to monitor visitor activity.

    Whether there will be any shoppers is another matter:-)

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