Art Basel has released the mid-year UBS Global Art Market Report, written in partnership with economist Dr. Clare McAndrew, with data relating both the positive and negative impacts of the global health crisis on the art market. The Impact of COVID-19 on the Gallery Sector report surveyed 795 galleries and 360 high-net-worth individuals across the U.S, the U.K., Europe, and Asia.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the gallery sector with some of its biggest challenges to date. Sales in the sector are down 36% already in the first half of 2020, with most galleries bracing for further declines, while those of all sizes have had to furlough or permanently lay off a significant number of employees," says McAndrew. The gallery sector generated an estimated $36.8 billion in 2019.
First, the report's positive takeaway is the evident rapid rise of the digital marketplace, with the possiblity of its further growth. Online sales were up to 37 percent of total sales volume, well above the 10 percent of sales in the first half of 2019. One third of collectors surveyed bought works through online sales platforms, with 81 percent wanting the price to be listed when viewing works online.
New buyers made up 26 percent of online sales overall and 35 percent for smaller galleries with an annual turnover of less than $250,000. A majority (63 percent) spent more than $100,000, and 13 percent spent more than $1 million. Notably, 14 percent of millennials surveyed spent over $1 million.
The many negative impacts of the pandemic include significant downsizing of workforces, with one third of dealers surveyed reporting staff cuts, including about 38 percent of smaller galleries.
The report notes that "as would be expected, this was an exceedingly difficult period for galleries, with five out of six (83%) seeing a decline in sales value. And losses were hardly equal across the sector. Existing power imbalances were compounded, with smaller galleries experiencing the largest drop: Those with sales of between $250,000 and $500,000 per annum saw them fall by nearly half (43%)."
View mid-year survey results for the gallery sector here.