Forecasts for 2021. Photo of Art Basel in Miami Beach. Courtesy of the fair.
Photo of Art Basel in Miami Beach. Courtesy of the fair.

NWith the hangover of 2020, the art world begins to resume calendars and establish reformulated strategies after a year of events being adapted due to the pandemic and fairs migrated into hybrid formats with online. Uncertainty still surrounds any planning for the coming year, but even so, some art and market experts have given their bets for 2021. In their column Gray Market, the editor of the market section at Artnet News, Tim Schneider, calculates that the top art fairs of 2021 will take place as planned: Frieze New York (May 5), Art Basel Hong Kong (May 21), Frieze Los Angeles (July 26), Armory Show (September 9) and Art Basel Miami Beach (December). 

“If you're counting points, that means the only two major fairs I'm warning about are Art Basel in Basel (scheduled to come out June 14, but recently postponed to September 23) and Frieze London / Masters (launching scheduled for October 13)”. Why these two exceptions? Schneider explains that Switzerland lived up to its reputation in 2020 for being among the most demanding and restrictive countries in the world when it comes to regulating in-person events during the crisis. “Consider the challenges we are already seeing with vaccine distribution and health-related international travel restrictions, and I can see government officials potentially forcing Art Basel to delay its main event a bit,” he surmises. 

His reservation with Frieze London / Masters lies in the vaccination strategy adopted by the United Kingdom: the government intends to offer vaccines to 15 million people - over 70, health professionals - in mid-February and millions more people over 50s and other priority groups by spring. Only in the autumn will the rest of the adult population receive a vaccine, just when Frieze London is planned to occur. The same period last year marked a further increase in the level of transmissions, something that could again be a drag. “Caution could compel Frieze employees to change the fair from its traditional format in Regent's Park to the same distributed model as Frieze Los Angeles 2021,” says the editor.

With all the zeal for the latest edition of Frieze of 2021, why is Schneider confident that the first one will take place, in New York, later in May? One answer may be the one offered by Victoria Siddall, director of the fair's board in the American metropolis. In an interview with The New York Times columnist Scott Reyburn, Siddall had already pointed out that “New York is one of the few cities where you can hold a fair for 60 international galleries without having to rely on a large international audience. There are so many collectors in the city.” She states, “It’s a much smaller fair, but it feels right for the first half.”

Is a reduction in the number of fairs attended by gallery owners to be expected in 2021? Maybe yes. Marianne Boesky's gallery owner, also from New York, plans to attend half of the fairs she attended five years ago, for example, noting that the need to attend the events and their gradual increase in price have led her to a point where the comparison between gallery revenue and art fair overhead expenses – not counting hours of work – barely broke even.

Forecasts 2021. Auctioneer Oliver Barker presiding over Sotheby's global electronic auctions. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker presiding over Sotheby's global electronic auctions. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

In addition to the permanence of in-person fairs, Schneider risks foreseeing an increase in online auctions due to a number of buyers willing to spend (“freely, but not recklessly”) after a year in which luxuries have been reduced; His bet is that fine works of art will be sold at auction, although “trophies are not part of the package”.

And how are the famous viewing rooms? “My feeling is that once even limited physical programming entered the picture, maintaining a concurrent digital program became an increasingly high-effort/low-reward proposition for resellers with modest resources,” explains the editor. He adds by noting that if virtual art fairs continue after their live counterparts return, “some of these dealers will decide that the continued cycling of their own online exhibition halls is no longer worthwhile, especially if they can still participate in fairs.” virtual”.

Let's be viewing rooms or virtual auctions, for art consultant Emily Tsingou: “The lasting legacy of 2020 will be that reliance on a purely digital format is not the solution for the future of the art market,” as told in an interview with The Art Newspaper.

READ MORE: In issue #53 of arte!brasileiros a report was published that outlined the art market in Brazil in 2020, we listened to gallerists and other agents of the national market, questioning such adaptations to the virtual environment and whether they had been beneficial or not. Check by accessing this link.

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