The pandemic changed everything last year and not least in terms of the way that we can view art. From lockdowns that affected exhibition attendance to the type of art being sold by auction houses there have been huge shifts that have propelled the art world into a new era. Online access to art is something that has gone into overdrive - after many years of the big institutions in arts doing little about it - and the pandemic has also provided many opportunities for businesses and artists to take a more innovative approach. These are just some of the ways in which the COVID pandemic made us rethink how we can view art.
- The drive for digital alternatives. Prior to the pandemic there were many organisations already using digital means to provide access to art but it was often viewed as a second class experience to in-person viewing and not much effort went into it. However, when COVID really took hold and the world locked down there was suddenly no alternative but to start creating exciting and distinctive digital experiences and many cultural institutions have seen a serious bump in visitor numbers as a result.
- A process of democratisation. One of the positives of the pandemic was the way it forced a move away from traditional structures to art that was much more accessible and being made available by more inclusive digital means. Online exhibitions and virtual programming have attracted us in droves thanks to the barriers that they remove in terms of geography and schedules. Even events like Art Basel went online and we started to see artists going IRL too with murals and installations popping up everywhere. While this may have been a new experience it was often a welcome one - who doesn’t want to see art on your street corner or viewed from the comfort of your own home.
- Going deeper into the art. The process of viewing art often used to revolve around being in a stuffy, crowded and overwhelming room that could be noisy and intimidating. Now, social distancing has brought more peace to the process, crowds have thinned and there seems to be much more opportunity for dialogue. A whole new dimension has appeared to allow us to get more from viewing art, with conversations, films and insights about the artists being shared at the same time as their work.
- Sales actually increased. Despite the fact that many galleries closed their doors during the pandemic we actually saw art sales increase. This was a direct result of the need for artists and galleries to bring their sales online, allowing them to reach a much wider audience. This has also led to more transparency with prices revealed alongside the art, which wasn’t always the practice before. Auction houses also followed this trend, opting for hybrid sales that included e-bidding and selling different types of art, including digital pieces.
The pandemic has made us rethink a lot of elements of our lives, including how we can view, buy and enjoy art.