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Life as a Gallery Owner in the time of COVID-19

Laisun Keane's thoughts on the challenges and opportunities running an Art Gallery in a global lockdown. 4.25.2020



SINK OR SWIM?

I left a ceramics gallery on April 2nd and launched this gallery on April 3rd.

Am I mad? We were in the thick of this worldwide pandemic, the Massachusetts Governor just announced closure of non-essential businesses until May 4th. Workers were furloughed, many suffered lost incomes, education moved online, travel was halted and the entire art world seemingly came to a stand still. It begs the question: who will buy art in these uncertain times? Will art galleries survive when we can't have visitors come through the door?


Before all these came to be, the art world was slowly embracing the digital world. Most art galleries understood the power of social media with Instagram proving to be a commercially useful tool. Many galleries offer some sort of options to buy art online but most still adhered to the philosophy that art must be viewed in person and businesses could only be done face to face or at least on the phone. I believe that to a certain extent this is true but we must not dismiss the vast opportunity digital tools provide galleries. And this has now proven to be more apparent than before.


At the get go, I knew that my gallery would be a fully digital experience for the audience. I had in mind to augment every gallery program and marketing outreach for the web. The most important thing is, after this is over, these 'new' ways of doing business are here to stay. Not only that, I believe the pleasure of viewing art is enhanced, not diminished through so many ever new and improved technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality. And over these past few weeks this gallery has already started down that path - running a Zoom interview with an artist, holding a virtual Opening Reception via Google Meet, creating videos of a gallery walk through (akin to the viewing room), launched Art features and active and nearly daily postings on social media such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Our gallery's first exhibition, Nancy Gruskin: Life, Still is completely online with all artworks viewable on our website, a catalogue published on Flipsnack and online purchase enabled.


An online survey (https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/work-at-home-after-covid-19-our-forecast) shows that after COVID-19, 25-30% of workers will continue to work from home as working remotely is adopted with the prolonged 'stay at home' order. Given that we are already doing so much shopping online and Amazon seeing its biggest surge in sales right now and their stock price hitting the roof, one can only imagine the affect it has on art buying. Being able to easily view and buy art online is paramount to the success of artists. And this, I see as being a great strength and value galleries bring to the art world.



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