Like blocks in a row, galleries and exhibition sites are closing temporarily or postponing exhibitions, worldwide.
This is a double whammy for artists, many having spent past months preparing for exhibitions, incurring costs and can now expect little, if anything in return.
For galleries the impact may be even greater. A few, possibly many may not survive, they may not even reopen. In normal times, operating a gallery can be like straddling an exposed razor blade – there is little room for misjudgment.
Some galleries have begun to offer digital experiences. These are novel for many viewers, the challenge will come when more and more turn to a digital model and then need to market and promote themselves to attract eyeballs. Rarely do these digital products generate any revenue, however they can be expensive to maintain.
As many people have discovered over the past decade, going digital isn’t easy. Generating revenue via a digital channel is frustrating, expensive, time consuming, fraught with risk and unreliable. With only a handful of exceptions the only people making any money from digital sales are the owners of Amazon, Ebay, Google, Alibaba and Facebook. Everyone else is fighting over the crumbs. In reality unless you already have an established digital sales platform in place with a significant following then it is unlikely you will be able to benefit from doing so in the foreseeable future.
Enforced closure provides gallery owners with an opportunity to reassess their business model. What may have changed since you first opened? What is happening on the horizon? Is the way you have been doing things, the way you want to do them in future?
In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the timespan between virus outbreaks appears to be decreasing. It is possible this will not be the last virus outbreak to send your gallery into enforced closure. It is possible the next may be less than a decade away. While many small businesses will experience financial hardship, those that bring people together into a public space will suffer more, and sooner, than others.
This doesn’t mean the gallery model is doomed. The world needs a place to view and purchase art, it needs knowledgeable people to guide and provide advice about art. It does suggest that for those willing to remain in the game, they may need to consider the selling price of art, the commission level, the cost of operating a gallery and arguably most important, how they will salt away a little from each sale for the next viral outbreak – these last much longer than the proverbial rainy day.
This article written by John Coxon, founder of art4u.australia John is an experienced consultant working with nonprofit art organisations and business advisor. John may be contacted by email. It costs nothing to have an initial chat.