Museums, exhibition halls and art fairs have been emptied in 2020, a black year for the sector, but the crisis of the pandemic has served for many of these institutions to dust themselves off, to advance strides in their processes of digitization and art finally reaches the internet.
Record of virtual visits
During the months of confinement, virtual exhibitions, guided tours, conferences, museums were created on the web, contests and popular challenges. The most famous one filled the internet with recreations of classic paintings with what citizens had at home: few times has art generated so much interest on the internet.
Many of the museums were overwhelmed by attention: during the confinement the Prado Museum had to hire more servers (from 2 to 10) to support the visits to the web, and the Louvre multiplied by ten in one day (the 19 of March), its virtual visitors, from 40,000 to almost 400,000.
In search of a new identity
With the uncertainty of the current situation, the sector is aware that the digitization process that prompted the confinement has come to stay and museums, exhibition halls, art galleries, fairs and auction houses are rushing to find their identity in the Web.
In recent months, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum launched virtual guided tours for groups and has opened a space in the video game “Animal Crossing”, and the Prado Museum launched to broadcast on Instagram in which users themselves could ask what painting they wanted to see.
The art fairs – canceled in full – and the auctions have followed an identical path, the vast majority have replaced the extensive pavilions full of paintings, sculptures and installations with virtual exhibitions in which it is possible to buy the works without stepping on the street.
The pioneers, the art auctions
It is true that auction rooms were among the ones that had entered the virtual world the most, but this year they have tried to go one step further. In June, Christie’s tested a new live-broadcast auction model that took place in four cities at once (Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York).
Sales amounted to $ 420 million and among the most outstanding works was a Lichtenstein, which reached $ 46 million. The result was so good that it has repeated the experience on two other occasions, and other houses have copied the system.
Collectors who buy art online have risen from 44 to 67% of all buyers, after half a decade without changes.
Millionaire losses for museums
The collapse of visitors in the museums translates into millionaire losses: the Metropolitan of New York estimates that it will lose 150 million dollars this year, the Prado will stop entering about 20 million euros and only in one month of closure (April) the Uffizi lost 10 million.
In the case of the big ones, recovering will be hard, but for the small museums without public funds the situation is worse; Some centers such as the Baltimore Museum and the Brooklyn Museum have auctioned works to survive, a measure not without controversy.
Every crisis is an opportunity and the art world is finding new opportunities right now, meanwhile those who can go to a museum will find it almost empty, a historic opportunity to see the museum as probably never will ever be seen.