The Future Role of Galleries

Over the past few years technologies have radically altered the way we create, promote, buy and sell art. Fifteen years ago we were sending images and catalogues via FedEx, now we deal art in jpg format via WhatsApp. There is no doubt in my mind that this will advance further in the coming years.

The Internet has opened up new ways of buying and selling art. Online marketplaces allow collectors to buy works at the click of a button whilst paving the way for lesser-known artists to access the market. Social media has also had a huge impact. Instagram meshes especially well with the art world due to its visual simplicity, almost reminiscent of a gallery space. Most successful galleries in the world are active on Instagram. Users can click through and purchase an artwork directly from the artist, cutting out the middleman completely.

New technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D Printing have allowed artists to create entirely new art forms, forming a new relationship and experience between the public and art. We are seeing artists breaking free from the confines of the gallery and museum space.

As someone passionate about the intersection of art and technology, I have closely followed and mapped technologies impacting the art market through my site: ArtMarketGuru. I believe new technologies such as Blockchain, VR, AR and Artificial Intelligence will considerably disrupt the traditional gallery model.

You need to be brave to open a gallery in our current climate, there are multiple challenges that come with it, especially if you are small to mid-size. Although the gallery provides a crucial platform for the exposure and accessibility of an artist, the recent upsurge in gallery closures suggests it may not be the most sustainable model. Costs associated with running a gallery are high, additionally one must gain a loyal following of artists and collectors to succeed. Currently we are seeing the small to mid-size galleries taking all the risks, whilst the large to mega galleries who represent the top selling artists seem to reap all the rewards.

How Technology Benefits Artist Promotion and Administration
How Technology Benefits Artist Promotion and Administration

It was recently revealed in the Art Basel UBS Global Art Market Report that many smaller galleries rely on just one artist to accumulate half of their income. Claire McAndrew who compiles the report commented that this is a “dangerous” position to be in as once the artist is gone, the gallery is left vulnerable. The report showed that out of the 600 high net worth individuals included, 93% of the millennials said they purchased works from an online platform such as Artsy, Artnet or Paddle8 (to name a few of the biggest). This group represents a new generation of collectors open to buying and sourcing art in an entirely new way.

At Talking Galleries Barcelona Symposium in 2018 many speakers agreed that the traditional gallery model was lacking in many ways. One of the panellist voiced the opinion that galleries should now consider collaborating with collectors, finding financial backers and other sponsors to remain visible and stay afloat.

I believe the role of the gallery must evolve in the way it promotes and presents its artists. A strong online presence is now just as important as an offline one. A gallery with a consumer-driven approach must implement a coordinated digital transformation. Contemporary art galleries may go by a nomadic model organising pop-up events with no permanent space.

My opinion is that we will see art galleries adapting to new media and taking on more of an agent position. Things are evolving. The MTArt Agency founded by Marine Tanguy in 2015 is a “talent agency” with offices both in London and Paris that helps artists diversifying their streams of revenue. They give artists visibility and create partnerships as well as selling the works, taking a much smaller commission than the traditional gallery. Attempting to build a much stronger reputation for the artist (credibility, visibility and revenue), they form a support system for artists instead of selling their work as a commodity. Natasha Arselan has created the platform AucArt, also doing something different to the conventional art gallery/dealer. AucArt represents emerging artists at the earliest stages in their career, looking after their funds, shipping, paperwork and getting them press opportunities as well as exhibiting opportunities. Both are examples of agencies who are bypassing the traditional gallery model with the hope to provide additional support to artists whilst simultaneously addressing the needs of the millennial collectors.



Cover image: Frédéric de Senarclens talking at Christie’s Art+Tech Summit, July 2019