COVID-19 and the Art Market | Update March 16, 2020

Last week, I shared some thoughts about the impact the COVID-19 outbreak and related stock market turmoil are having on the art market. It’s still very early days, but I would like to share frequent but brief updates about what we’re seeing as the situation unfolds. Of course, I can only share what we’re seeing, and my experience is not representative of the larger market. Hopefully as we all share, we can get a better sense of what’s happening in the broader art market.

Impact So Far?

Empty parking spaces in front of Xanadu Gallery. Monday morning, March 16, 2020

The news cycle has been dominated by coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak for a little less than a month now. The stock market reached its peak on February 12, and has been on a rollercoaster ever since.

So what has the impact on Xanadu Gallery been so far? Not much, at least as far as our numbers go. January and February sales were very strong, up from last year. Almost unbelievably, sales in March, so far, are ahead of where they were this time last year.

Xanadu Gallery March 2020 sales (green line) compared to March 2019 sales (dashed line)

 

Will Sales Remain Stable?

It’s hard to predict what will happen with sales moving forward. Art sales often require follow up, and so some of the sales we’ve been making over the last few weeks were initiated several weeks earlier. Still, over the last week, we’ve had good traffic through the gallery and strong in-gallery sales.

In reply to my post last week, Warren Keating reported a similar experience:

I anticipate that sales may begin to slow down this week. Over the weekend, updates from federal officials have become more emphatic, and closures more widespread.

Sold this morning – Artist: Stephen Hansen
Title: Jeanne Hebuterne in Red Shawl (Modigliani)
Medium: Acrylic/Paper Mache’
Dimensions: 29.5″h x 18″w

I noticed a significant decrease in traffic on the roads driving in to work this morning, but we’ve already had visitors in the gallery today. Our first phone call this morning was from a client who had been in to the gallery for art walk last Thursday evening and wanted to make a purchase.

We’re very grateful to our collectors!

What are you Experiencing?

What are you seeing where you live? Have you made sales over the last week or two? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Watch for updates in the coming days.

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.

38 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post, Jason… it brings some encouragement to those of us who are building up inventory to approach galleries… I’m taking this time to hunker down and paint like crazy, and keeping my fingers crossed that there will be dealers ready to take the work once it’s ready. Sigh. Stay healthy and thanks for providing a community for all of us to share our thoughts as we move through this crisis.

  2. All retail stores in our town have been closed by the county health department. In reality our county is pretty much closed and visitors have been asked to leave. Our art sales were up in January/February over last year. This month we have been way down and we will be closed for the unforeseeable future. We are available by phone or email, but have not had any reaction to that.

  3. As of March 10th when the first case of CoVid19 flew into our area my sales have ground to a halt. Understandably people are out shopping for sanitizer, paper products and non-perishable groceries. On the other hand, due to self isolation, I’m busy completing all the half finished projects in my studio and I’m excitedly planning new ones. I’m prevented from visiting my Mum in care and I’ve accepted that at 93 and in a high risk environment her health is out of my control, so the stress has melted away and the quality of my art has soared. I finally have the time to focus and it’s wonderful.

  4. Although in general I am a hopeless optimistic, I wonder about putting out 2,000. For the July art show in NM. I’m thrilled to have been accepted, but I fear that even if the show is a go, I wonder if there will be plenty of patrons? I’d love to hear what others think.

  5. I am an artist in Canada, with 7 galleries representing my work. Today on Facebook I saw notice of temporary closure (with web sites remaining open for online sales) from 4 of those galleries. I was to host my annual spring Open Studio event at the end of this month and have switched it to a 2-week online collection with free shipping, but I am not optimistic about sales.
    The economy is going to be on hold for a few months at least. I think this spring will be a good time to paint and keep posting new work on social media, to keep my followers engaged with something positive. Hang in there everyone.

  6. Several prominent galleries here in Jackson Hole have temporarily closed until further notice and I am sure many more of them will as well. The Center for the Arts is suspending all programming, all sports events have been cancelled, all three ski resorts closed early for the whole season, all schools are closed for at least 3 weeks, and restaurants are “no in-house dining, takeout only. The Recreation Center is closed. Though we only have 3 Covid-19 cases so far in the whole state, everyone is hunkering down – to “flatten the curve”. I have an exhibit opening in Breckenridge CO this weekend, but I have cancelled my trip to the gallery, and all of CO ski resorts have closed. So I will be creating an e-catalog/flipbook of the body of work in the exhibit to send via email, my website, post in social media – to entertain people as they look for something to do at home on their computers and devices.

    1. I have made flip-books for my photography but never thought of it for artwork. That’s a great idea. With the slow-speed internet we have out here in the middle of nowhere, though, if I try to make one it’ll have to wait until less people are online trying to keep up with the latest news. But I love the idea!

  7. Well, I live here in Seattle, and almost EVERYTHING is closed. Galleries, museums, libraries, theatres, cinemas, bars, restaurants, schools, you name it. Many spring craft shows have been cancelled. The company where I work (fine art publishing/interior design) laid off 14 people just last Friday. I survived that particular purge, but the future is looking uncertain. I plan to focus on my online business for the foreseeable future, assuming anybody has any money left and is willing to order anything from Seattle at this point. Wish me luck!

  8. Jason, do the lines on your graph indicate the number of pieces sold, dollar value sold, or something else?

  9. Although I’m an optimist at heart, in this case I’m going to mentally prepare for the worst, and hope I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m going to pour my heart and time into creating the best artwork I can, actively maintain a presence on social media, support my galleries at events and artworks, and spend time searching for new galleries. This situation is beyond my control, so the only things I can control are my attitude and how I spend my time. It willl end, and I will be positioned for the rebound.

  10. I remember in the last economic downturn that I made a lot of sales (and fairly hefty ones) to people who decided they’d had enough belt-tightening and “doom and gloom” and just wanted to treat themselves to something special. So I did fine. It’s a little too soon to look for that kind of reaction, but my guess is that it will come along again.

    1. the recession of the 1930s was a very good time for many artists. mainly because recession means nothing to them, the belt only tightens so far. art buyers will only wait so long before they need their fix.

  11. it is time to ride the roller coaster of business. Likely you cannot affect the situation on the ground so you must adapt. A friend of mine has gone through many of these swings over 40 years in the alberta art business. when times are down he downsizes and waits while building his artists , then when economic conditions are right he rapidly expands to take advantage of conditions. wild swings from picture frame shop operator to high end art dealer with 15,000 sq ft gallery. the point is he survives because he goes by facts on the ground not hopes and wishes for the market to be what it clearly is not. he has the guts to make decisions immediately. he sticks by his artists and his loyal clients thus they stick by him. Many galleries in Alberta were hanging on by a shoe string, they will not survive this mini downturn.
    for myself i paint and publish art books while building relationships with clients, galleries. no need to panic this is not new only the cause of downturn is new.

  12. I don’t mean to minimize the injury and death due to COVID-19, however, these are stats from Johns Hopkins:

    Infections
    COVID-19: Approximately 174,884 cases worldwide; 3,813 cases in the U.S. as of Mar. 16, 2020.*

    Flu: Estimated 1 billion cases worldwide; 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. per year.

    Deaths
    COVID-19: Approximately 6,705 deaths reported worldwide; 69 deaths in the U.S., as of Mar. 16, 2020.*

    Flu: 291,000 to 646,000 deaths worldwide; 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.

    The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Since this disease is caused by a new virus, people do not have immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. Doctors and scientists are working on estimating the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, it is thought to be higher than that of most strains of the flu.

    *This information comes from the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

    This is a lung-targeted flu. As with all flu, the vulnerable need to isolate, and everyone needs to boost their immune systems and take care of themselves. There is plenty to do to boost immunity. This virus is being hyper-sensationalized to the point of causing a crash in global economy. Please look at the stats above. 69 deaths in the US from Corona virus/flu vs. 61,000 deaths in the US annually from the flu. I’m not saying don’t do anything, just use common sense with immune boosting and washing hands. There’s no need for this sensationalism. Thank you for all you do, Jason.

    Here’s a link from Johns Hopkins:

    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu

  13. Here on the East Coast, every single thing is closed–schools, theaters, restaurants, galleries, libraries, etc. Many shows have been cancelled. You can buy food and gas, that’s about it. The economic effects (loss of investment earnings, many small businesses with thin margins failing) likely mean that artists will see reduced sales for some time unless their work is at the high end sold to collectors with considerable money. Artists themselves, of course, will just keep on painting.

    1. I do art shows for a living and they are cancelling left and right. No shows no income….. Gotta keep on making art because someday it will change.

  14. Hi Jason, I am from Vancouver island, Canada and I headed down your way on the 12th with 3 goals in mind. The Scottsdale Arts festival, your gallery and Sedona. I pretty much had to turn around and head home when our govt “summoned” so I did not get to Sedona, the arts festival was cancelled but I managed to go to your gallery. It was SO worth the visit. I watched your wonderful staff in action, and was impressed by the variety of art and mediums. I came out of there bursting with inspiration. Now it seems I have time to put that inspiration into action for who knows how long. Next time I go to Phoenix I am spending all day in Old Scottsdale. Maybe will see you next year!

  15. We had our annual Open Studio sponsored by The Tubac Center of the Arts in Tubac, AZ. We had half the number of people come but the sales were pretty the much the same for the artists and we considered it a success. 8 artists over $18,000 in sales…450 people in 3 days. Last year, 900 people and $22,000 in sales for 8 artists.

    We will be here next year.

    Hi Kay Stratman.

  16. Thanks, Jason, for keeping the lines of communication open during this time. I have a small show currently hanging that opened on March 6, We did have a small opening reception, but no live music, refreshments, etc. It was very quiet, and due to Covid-19 concerns, the turnout was very low. I had a grand total of 14 people at my opening, and it was great. I got to converse with everyone, made some good contacts, and sold one of my more expensive pieces. Even if no one else sees the show, it was worth it.

    Kay, I love your idea about the e-catalogue. I think I may do something similar. And of course keep working.

    Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

  17. The crisis & shutdown of other work has given me more time to put into making my art. It’s good to have the opportunity to glimpse how galleries are experiencing its effects, in the short term at least.

  18. In our county in Oregon, our fine art galleries are working together to communicate and support each other. We just had our first case confirmed. We are not as populated as Portland, but still are taking this serious. Most of us are limiting hours to Fri-Sun and by appointment and then promoting online sales. We are all also discounting or offering free shipping. We continue to look for innovative ways to promote ourselves and support each other during this challenging time. And while closed, our gallery is taking advantage of the time to paint and do some projects to be ready for our re-opening to regular hours!

  19. In the SF Bay Area we’re being asked to shelter in place for three weeks. All non-essential businesses are closed. The three galleries that I have work in are closed. I plan to work in my home studio, but the community center where I fire my ceramics is closed. At the end of our isolation I’ll have a lot of green ware to be fired. 😁 It’s not going to be a good income year for me.
    On the plus side- I can download as many free library books as I want! And will have time to read.

  20. Jason,
    the great sales in March, that are even higher than a year before are because many people turned back to local shops instead of international ones. I am here in Europe, selling mostly to the USA and do experience a drop in sales since February as many are afraid of the virus to get infected through a package (that is impossible but many people still fear and just play it safe ).
    Here in Europe galleries are not allowed to open any more, for an uncertain period, and it is very possible that in USA will happen after a time, too.

  21. My numbers are down since November in my frame shop. Everyone seems to be buying only toilet paper right now. I thought I might frame some TP in a shadowbox for the front window. On second thought I don’t want anyone breaking my front window.

    Traffic and Income has stopped. No business/income the past 3 days.

  22. I hung a large solo show at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland WA a couple of days before it became ground zero of the US coronavirus outbreak and location of most of the COVID-19 deaths.

    Obviously folks aren’t seeing the show, nor inclined to purchase paintings – that’s the least of my worries.

    My main issue is that I’m very nervous of taking down my paintings and bringing them home whenever the show ends. I’m going to assume that the surfaces and edges of my paintings could contain bits of the virus.

    Any ideas of how to disinfect my paintings?

  23. David,

    Your sense of humor (the TP in a shadowbox idea) is a breath of fresh air, which all of us can use about now. Thank you for the good laugh. Seriously, rather than in the front window, you might consider offering “TP Art” online; the possibilities are endless. Better act quickly, though, the days of this crisis are numbered.

  24. Hi from Anne Allbeury-Hock . My show of over 40 paintings was to open on April 4. at the Dorchester
    Center for the Arts. It was canceled and the next avialable date was in 2021! I hope are president
    is serious about the $1,000 check. It would help cover some of my expenses for this show. IhCW
    been PA and studio painting for overe 25 years.See my web;; http://www.allbeuryfinearts.com

  25. Thanks for your positive input Jason. I went to an art class on Tues and Palace Arts was shut with a big notice from the Health Authority on the door. California has gone crazy, shutting everything down; apart from essentials ex food, gas, some banks. No school, no Church, no cultural events, you can’t buy art supplies except, I suppose online. It is like being in some weird science fiction movie???

    The thought forms of fear and paranoia created are almost worse than the virus. As are the economic ramifications for especially small businesses, artists, musicians and the workers who live pay check to paycheck. Th X factor is no one knows how long this is going to go on for and what in the end will happen.

    We need to know how to build our immune systems and find solutions to help people who are really sick with it recover. Holistic alternative medicine and nutrition (homeopathy, herbs and essential oils esp oregano very anti viral,fungal and bacterial) has some really positive solutions.

    It is also a good time to retreat, go within and make art, and get organized, spring clean and catch up with the business side of Art Gallery research so that when things turn around I am ready to send out to Galleries.

    On this day of the Spring Equinox may we plant positive seeds for the healing of the world.

  26. As of 3/20/2020, some of the nine galleries I’m in have temporarily closed. They will set up appointments to meet with customers at the gallery. They are trying to push online sales.

    In two of the states, the government closed restaurants and bars which has negatively impacted the ones that were trying to remain open.

    With some of the positive news on therapies, hopefully things will begin to turn around.

  27. Hi Jason, I am Robin Holliday – Owner / Curator of HorseSpirit Arts Gallery in Savage MD. Every “non-essential business” in Maryland has had to close via a state mandate. Given the situation here, I fully support the required closure, but I am feeling the financial pain. I represent 48 local artists and our doors have been closed now for 10 days – and NO sales. January and February were fantastic months for us – unexpectedly high sales. But now we are at zero. So we are taking this time to develop an online store where customers can shop 24/7 and we will ship art to their homes.

    In addition, I watched your video about a virtual tour of your gallery. You Gallery is stunning. And I found the idea very helpful. We are going to do the same.
    I feel loyal and responsible to the artists I represent. About 25% of these local artists rely on their sales at my gallery to supplement their income. So we are working very hard to sell their work in this time of “high anxiety and adjustment”.
    Jason – Thank you for your posts. I learn a lot from you and I appreciate that you give back to all of us to help us become our best. Much kindness, Robin

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