COVID-19 emergency: the great crisis of the US tunnels


They collapse of -73% the U.S. art gallery revenue in the second quarter of 2020. A contraction that follows that of 31% recorded in the first quarter. Effect of the COVID-19 emergency that is hitting the American art system hard already where the 74% of gallery employees lost their jobs.

These are some of the data that emerge from the survey conducted by theArt Dealers Association of America (ADAA) from April 15 to May 4, 2020 among the main galleries in the United States to assess the impact of COVID-19. That is, on what is the heart of the art world, on which the cultural vitality itself and the economic health of the arts and cultural ecology in the United States and in the world depend.

168 galleries across the country participated in the survey, which involved members of major industry organizations, including the ADAA, the Los Angeles Gallery Association (GALA), the Houston Art Gallery Association (HAGA), the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), San Francisco Art Dealers Association (SFADA) and Portland Art Dealers Association (PADA).

“The devastating losses in the revenue of the galleries, the reduction of commercial activities and the closure of their physical spaces – explain the survey curators – not only financially affect their employees and sellers, but also on artists and professionals around the world . The artists rely heavily on the galleries, for the revenues deriving from the sales but above all for the activity they carry out in promoting their career, sponsoring the creation of new works, helping them to place their works in collections of important institutions and to develop exhibitions and to win scholarships through programs in galleries, publications and other platforms around the world. “

Before 13 March 2020, respondents employed more than 1,035 full-time and 521 contract workers and currently represented 2,421 living artists and 340 artist archives. The financial impact of the blocks of COVID-19 was rapid and immediate for the respondents. And now, In addition to revenue losses, American gallery owners are urgently concerned with the cost of running their physical spaces.

How many exhibitions do American galleries expect to attend in 2020. Source: ADAA

Just think that 80% of the interviewees are rented and only 51% managed to reach an agreement with the owners of the funds where their galleries are located for deferred payments or discounts. Among those who have a mortgage, however, only 14% managed to agree with their lenders.

All this, reads in the survey report, has thrown the U.S. galleries in a situation of great uncertainty regarding revenue projections for the rest of 2020. So much so that many operators are reducing or giving up to participate in art fairs, which in normal situations represent almost 50% of their annual sales, according to the report data The Art Market 2020 by Art Basel and UBS.

More than detail, 28% of respondents do not plan to participate in art fairs for the rest of 2020. And only 47% will take part in at least one fair in 2020. While the remaining 25% is still undecided.

“The survey focuses on the short-term impact, but the implications will be far-reaching and long-term for both art galleries and many of the employees and artists they support, both financially and as a key partner in promoting their practices and careers. – said Andrew Schoelkopf, president of ADAA and founder of Menconi + Schoelkopf, and Maureen Bray, executive director of ADAA – said. The sudden and devastating losses recorded will undoubtedly have a chain effect on these small businesses and on the wider artistic community for the next 12-18 months, if not for a longer period. It is still premature to say how long this situation will last. It is essential that federal, state and local governments take further action to ensure that the small business community, including art galleries, has access to the support needed to support their long-term activities and continue to make their essential contribution to the nation’s lively artistic and cultural landscape ยป.

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