Shifts in the Art World

I have made a handful of investments in the art start-up world. This is not a vertical that loves change. It is hard to embrace change when internally things appear to be working.

Galleries have been selling art without much change over many years except being able to send someone a Jpeg and showing work on an iPad. In the past few years, it has become more difficult for smaller galleries to compete with the big galleries. As the big gallerists have become known brands with museum-like shows, they have swept up many emerging artists from the smaller galleries. This has been happening over the past few years.

The back end systems of most of the galleries, auction houses, and even major collectors are far from stellar. A few years ago there was a wake-up call when every business began to shift to software to manage their inventories and sales. The majority of them never grew past the first product.

Times are finally changing. The art world is about to go through a massive digital transformation. If you can’t walk into a gallery or go to a live auction you have no choice but to rely on technology. In full transparency, I am an investor in Arternal. Arternal’s vision is bigger than being a CRM product but that is the foundation as all businesses start with one product and grow into several as the needs of the clients wake up. All those months and even years of talking to galleries, auction houses, and large collectors many woke up when Covid-19 shook up our lives and called Arternal. Transformation happened immediately.

Daily I am seeing auctions, shows, viewing rooms and other ways to engage collectors. It is good to see. I should be able to go to Frieze and walk the show online with my friends and talk to the gallerist on my computer or big screen TV. The Frieze starts today and we will learn a lot.

I believe the auction houses will become more like galleries. They have huge inventories including multiple auctions from wines to art to jewels. They will have to begin getting all their inventories online and let their salespeople cultivate collectors based on their interests and price points.

The one thing that everyone still holds back on is pricing but it would be insanely smart for galleries to put the prices on the works vs pushing someone to enquire if interested. If you love something and it is in your price point you might be tempted. If you love it most people figure it will be out of their range and move on. Big loss for everyone.

It is fascinating what has changed instantly overnight with Covid-19 and the art world is high up there on the list. Regardless of your budgets, supporting artists, and living with art is a wonderful thing. As Jen Bekman says, shouldn’t we all have art in our lives?