作者：Thomas Stauffer, 瑞士苏黎世 Gerber Stauffer Fine Arts 合伙人 （图片提供：Thomas Stauffer）
毫无疑问，像高古轩（Gagosian），豪瑟沃斯（Hauser & Wirth），卓纳（David Zwirner）这样的大型画廊以及市场稳健的蓝筹“明星”艺术家们当然会在这场疫情中幸免于难。尽管其中一些画廊已经因为艺术行业面临的现实困境而不得不解雇一些员工或者大幅减少员工薪酬，但这些画廊有足够的财力来应对危机。总体来说，疫情会导致超级画廊与其他中小型画廊的差距越来越大。对不太知名的画廊及艺术家来说，获得经济可行并有效的市场机遇将越来越难。
目前全球有大小艺博会300余个。伴随疫情爆发，欧洲艺术和古董博览会（TEFAF）和 Frieze 都取消了原定5月份在纽约举办的艺博会，欧洲许多小型艺博会也面临同样的命运。全球当代艺博会之首：瑞士的巴塞尔艺博会，将毫无疑问地进行下去。其他的艺博会品牌如 TEFAF 、Frieze（至少Frieze Masters）也会继续下去。因为短时间内国际收藏家群体应该不愿冒着长途旅行的风险参观国外的艺博会，这给区域性定位良好的较小型艺术博览会带来更多机遇，如马德里的Arco艺博会、上海的西岸艺博会和 ART021 都会在“新冠”后继续顺利开展，甚至会变得更强更好。
托马斯·斯托弗（瑞士） (Thomas Stauffer)
以下是英文原文 （The original text below in English）
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
The art world after the Corona-crisis will be very different.
The title of this article refers to a song by the American rock band R.E.M from their 1987 album Document. The full title of the song is “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” which, I think, is quite fitting given the unprecedented and frightening, but maybe in the very long run also liberating, times we currently live in.
Economists agree that the global economy is in recession, possibly the deepest that has ever been measured in the West without the effects of war. Some go even further and predict that we will witness the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930s. In comparison with the Corona pandemic, the effects of the oil crisis in the 1970s, the traumatic experience of 9/11 and the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 were probably much less dramatic than what we are facing today. In addition to a very prolonged and painful economic reversal, we all find ourselves in a new world with many restrictions. Social distancing, travel restrictions, deserted airports many of which, with their home airlines grounded or bankrupt, can no longer be operated economically. After Covid-19 we might enter a new period of deglobalisation with an unknown outcome and impact for all of us.
What’s the impact of the Covid-19 crisis for the art world?
The outlook is bleak: According to Dominique Lévy, a prominent art dealer, art sales in galleries are down by up to 90%. While possibly exaggerated, this is still a rather mind blowing figure. “It will kill many galleries”, a renowned collector from New York told me last week on the phone. Most museums and galleries around the world are closed due to the global epidemic and it’s uncertain when they will be open again to the public. It’s entirely possible that some art scenes and communities will be economically wiped out. Small and mid-sized galleries already struggle to survive and many will close forever. Waiting lists for so called “emerging or in demand” artists evaporate overnight and all of a sudden access abounds...
Galleries often have huge overheads with expensive rent of their exhibition spaces and salaries to pay for the staff. How can they pay the rent and their employee’s if buyers aren’t buying and people aren’t seeing art? The gallery transactions which we still hear about are mostly at the price range of few thousand to 100’000 US- Dollars. Deals above 200’000 USD are today considered “substantial” transactions even by the largest galleries.
Mega galleries like Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner as well as very established “star artists” will, of course, survive the Corona pandemic, there is no doubt about that. These galleries have the financial means to sit out the crisis, even if some of them already have had to fire people due to the new reality in the Art World. As a consequence, the gap between the mega galleries and everyone else (smaller and mid-sized galleries) is going to widen and finding an economically viable niche will become even harder for less well-known artists and galleries.
The art world will see terrible losses. A lot depends on how long this global health crisis lasts. But there is hope: those galleries, artists and other participants of the global art community who are most agile and open to change will survive. Creativity will become the decisive survival trait and fortunately we all carry it within us.
What’s happening with all the art fairs? There are currently more than 300 art fairs around the world. Tefaf and Frieze have both cancelled their New York edition scheduled in May, like many smaller art fairs in Europe. Art Basel, the mother of all art fairs, will without a doubt survive, together with with Tefaf and Frieze or, at least, Frieze Masters. Regionally well positioned smaller art fairs like Arco Madrid, Westbund Shanghai and Art021 might come out of the Covid-19 aftermath stronger as well since collectors might not want to take the risk to be stuck in a full airplane for several hours.
At the moment the world is in a state of enforced hibernation. The resumption of art market activities in most regions is planned for September 2020, and the calendar of this month is completely overloaded with biennials, auctions and art fairs. Art Basel in Switzerland, which has been postponed from June to September, is also part of the long list of art events scheduled for September. However, if the West fails to get the epidemic under control very quickly, it is possible that all these events will get cancelled for good so there might be no art fairs, major auctions or biennials this year at all. The next few weeks and months will determine where the journey will go.
How will the auction houses cope with the profound global crisis and what’s their outlook in the aftermath of it? Most likely they will come out of this situation badly bruised but able to resume operations quickly. Some of their business is already being done digitally via online auctions and this shift will now get much more accentuated. But can an auction house exist without the exciting atmosphere of a live auction with a full auction room packed with art market players and their big egos? It’s hard to imagine that in the foreseeable future collectors will be willing to pay millions of dollars in online sales without seeing the artwork in the flesh. As an immediate reaction, auction houses have focused on private treaty sales, since the scheduled live auctions in May in New York are either postponed to June or entirely cancelled. Works of art that were planned for sale at the live auctions are now often transferred to the private sales department of the auction houses. However, the nature of the private sales as a slow business means auction houses will never be able to compensate their losses with private sales alone. The sales strategy for most auction houses short and mid-term, is a combination of private sales and online auctions.
Since in the future we might not be able to travel easily to visit an art fair or to see an exhibition of an artist we love, things will shift towards digitalisation and regional events. Travel restrictions or anxieties to travel might be severe. In the future we will see more virtual museums and gallery shows. Most galleries, art fairs and museums are already rushing to produce online viewing platforms. Galleries in particular are heavily investing in online viewing rooms for their collectors. Collectors will bid online for the art works they desire and watch the live stream of a discussion between their favorite curators and a gallerists on Instagram. As a collector, art lover and museum goer, you will have your art world in pocket format on your smart phone. You visit the MoMA New York on virtual reality tour (VR) and augmented reality (AR) based tools. No standard has as yet arisen from these efforts but it seems clear that these tools will change the way we experience art in this new paradigm of international visual culture and exchange.
Even if some of the above description of the state of the current Art World might be rather grim, I’m in general very positive that the art market will come out of this even stronger than before - but things might be very different. In what way, we don’t know. Only that it will be different. The virus won’t kill art and our curiosity for culture. When we look back at the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008/09 and the subsequent global financial crisis, the art market recovered quickly and already in 2011 prices for top quality artworks at auction and in private sales skyrocketed again.
Yes, the world is in lockdown but, on the positive side, we have time to spare and are forced to rethink our future as part of a global community. It’s a time for visions, not desperation. The corona crisis will change us as a society. It is up to us to make sure we come out of it more thoughtful, humble, sensitive and considerate. Art can play an important role in this, and I am confident that it will.
Author: Thomas Stauffer, Zurich, April 29, 2020
Thomas Stauffer has been a passionate art collector since his teenage years. With a keen eye for anticipating lasting market developments and an excellent worldwide network of contacts, he has made himself a name internationally for finding important artworks off-market in private collections. He previously held various senior management positions, inter alia with Starbucks Switzerland and Austria, and the Swiss Army. Thomas Stauffer has degrees in Economics and Human Resource Management as well as a post-graduate degree in Arts and Cultural Management.
Thomas Stauffer is the co-founder of Gerber Stauffer Fine Arts. Gerber Stauffer Fine Arts is an international dealership specialising in Modern, Post-War and contemporary art. We advise a select group of private and institutional clients on all aspects of building and managing their collections. Acting as agents for our clients or on own account, we buy and sell important works of art from the late 19th century to the present. Our main office with in-house research facilities and spacious viewing rooms is centrally located in Zurich, Switzerland.
（翻译：Gina Quan 权静静，编辑：罗书银）
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