Art's new frontiers: why the modern gallery is changing
If you thought that a traditional market like the art industry couldn't be disrupted by the
millennial generation, you were mistaken. Galleries, once a bastion of artistic expression, are facing uncertain times, forced to embrace new wrinkles and sell their wares online. The brick and mortar galleries resistant to change are struggling. Soaring rent prices and slowing sales are a sobering reality in a world where new tastes reign.
An opportunity to change
A new type of artistic space is emerging from the ashes of the traditional gallery: the creative hub. Think lofts, restaurants and bars suffused with art - a formula that is popular worldwide.
Artworks on there own are not enough of a pull for young buyers. Lofts like the House of Vans in London, or the The Back Loft Creative Hub, offer a place where young and emerging artists can exhibit their pieces, while attendees can shop art or indulge other diversions, like workshops, lectures or even a skate park.
Another pairing is food and art. A place like Bein Kandinof in Tel Aviv lets you attend lectures, watch the exhibitions and then sit at its restaurant. The Exeter Phoenix Cafe is home to art galleries, a theatre, cinema, film production resources, a radio station, print workshop and recording studios, all positioned around a central café.
New audiences want their art mixed in with diverse experiences; they want to be an active participant in the experience rather than a passive observer.
A different structure
Online, art market sales reached an estimated $3.75 billion in 2016, up 15% from 2015. That represents an 8.4% share of the overall art market.
This increase is expected to keep growing and reveals that brick and mortar galleries need to embrace the net. It's not only small galleries either. Giants like Sotheby's and Christie’s have seen an opportunity to appeal to new audiences online.
The social media generation
But just what drives taste in a social media generation?
According to the Hiscox Online art trade report for 2017: “91% of the galleries surveyed said they actively use social media to promote their gallery and their art/artists. Whilst Facebook and Twitter were the two dominant channels in 2016, Instagram is now clearly the social media channel of choice, with 57% of galleries saying they and Instagram the most effective in terms of raising awareness, compared to 42% who say Facebook. When it comes to generating direct sales or direct sales leads, again Instagram comes out as the clear winner, with 35% of the galleries saying the platform is driving direct sales, compared to only 7% of respondents mentioning Facebook."
Just as social media has disrupted the role of the all-knowing editor in the news industry, social media has disrupted the power of the contemporary "art critic". A new generation discover art through their Instagram and Facebook feed, rather than a self-appointed expert stationed in a gallery. The millennial generation of 25-39 year-olds aren't looking to abide by established rules of taste. This is a generation that is comfortable deciding what they like, spending their money over the internet, and visiting galleries that are as much about the culinary experience as the art.
The world's most famous galleries will surely never die, but for everyone else, it's a case of adapting to survive.