A Post-Pandemic Art Market

Every industry is affected by COVID-19, and the art world is one that has seen a dramatic change, an alteration that will determine the future of how artists and galleries engage with each other and with their audience.

It can be argued that up until now, traditional brick and mortar art institutions have been slow to fully embrace the opportunities offered by digital communications. Since social distancing and lockdown restrictions has forced them to close their physical doors, they have had to open their virtual doors and adapt quickly in order to continue connecting with their audiences.

Having a website and email newsletters are helpful, but these avenues only provide static information and neither are enough to keep audiences fully engaged. A transformation has been seen lately however, with galleries and museums around the world initiating virtual tours, online exhibitions, and live chats with artists on IGTV. A huge increase in web traffic has been seen for galleries as they are becoming increasingly creative with the delivery of online content.

While most of these current campaigns are focussed on immediate B2C actions, iazzu is one platform that offers longer term B2B solutions in building and maintaining relationships within one’s network, as well expanding the audience. I met Romana Müller, co-founder and CEO of iazzu, a few years ago at Pioneers 2018 in Vienna, Austria, and on hearing her pitch for the iazzu app, I was captivated. The Swiss company supports galleries, art fairs and art institutions with a user-friendly smartphone solution. The app not only allows you to access exhibitions from your favourite galleries and artists, but through AR technologies, also offers the opportunity to visualise the artworks in your own space.

In light of COVID-19 disrupting the norm, I caught up with Romana to discuss the current climate, the evolution of the art market and iazzu’s digital solution:

What initiated the idea for iazzu?

I’ve been a participant of the arts industry all my life, visiting museums and galleries, always curious to find out information about artists and their artwork. However I noticed a challenge, especially when travelling and visiting exhibitions in different cities and countries. It takes such a long time to get your notes organised afterwards; researching the exhibitor and trying to get back in touch to gather more information about an artist you have been viewing. If you want to make a purchase, there is the added challenge of not knowing whether or not the piece will fit in your home. Thinking about how to facilitate this, we came up with the idea for the iazzu app. 

Who can benefit from using iazzu?

Really everyone who loves art can benefit from the iazzu app! We serve a large number of different clientele, ranging from art galleries and exhibitors, to private collectors and individual artists. Everyone is responsible for sharing their tailor-made application and content with their network, or in a case of a private collector, they are able to keep it private if they wish. For art lovers, iazzu is the perfect tool to collect preferred exhibitors’ information, get updates and invites to exhibition openings, artists or new artwork arrivals and stay in touch with the exhibitor through the in-app-chat. We bridge the gap between art exhibitors and art lovers, and the easy-to-use AR module allows the visualisation of any preferred artwork in your own space. 

How has your network been affected by COVID-19?

Everyone’s story is pretty similar; galleries are worried about not opening their doors for a long time, not being able to cover costs due to losing sales and not exhibiting at art fairs – just recently Art Basel’s main fair in Basel was cancelled, the most important art fair worldwide. It is a great challenge for many to keep their galleries alive, and it goes without saying that exhibitors are worried, more than ever now during this crisis. In addition, people can’t physically enjoy viewing art “in vivo”, and artists are now looking for new ways to approach collectors directly.

How important is it for exhibitors and artists to have an active and engaging online presence?

It is absolutely crucial if you want to survive. If you don’t have a digital presence, you don’t exist anymore these days. Think about it: the first thing that someone does after they meet you is google you. If you can’t be found online, you just don’t exist. 

It’s not a secret to say that the art market is still very traditional and conservative, and one of the only industries that hasn’t fully moved online yet. Only a small number of galleries have successfully implemented a digital solution allowing additional sales through direct online channels. 

Galleries work hard to present their artists to the collectors they already have, which is mainly still the older generation with whom they have built up relationships with over the past decades. The main profile of an art collector is around 60 years old, white and male. However, they struggle to serve the younger generation of wealthy people who are also able to collect and purchase art.

As technology evolves, expectations grow. If you don’t establish your individual brand’s name in the digital jungle then you will not be visible to this new generation of collectors, and it’ll be extremely difficult to reach them at a later stage. 

Throughout history, large worldwide changes have affected the style of art created during and after such events. Can you see this happening as a result of the current pandemic?

Yes, more and more artists are producing art in response to the current situation. Not only is the creation of art changing, but we also see that the market as a whole is changing. Art fairs are being cancelled, galleries have to reinvent themselves. Many galleries have already closed their doors for good. Some artists have lost their representation and we can tell that more than ever before, artists are starting to search for ways to directly communicate and sell to the collectors. At iazzu, we usually get a larger number of contact requests from galleries, but lately we have seen a higher number of artists approaching us directly. In the next few years we will see an interesting change in the art industry. It is an interesting and fast-growing movement.

What is next for iazzu?

Our tech pipeline is endless. We plan new features and languages to be available in the near future. Just recently we launched the desktop version of the app, which can be embedded directly on our clients’ website. Since Art Basel Online Viewing Room in Hong Kong took place at the start of the lockdown in March, a hype was created around online viewing rooms. We are also now offering an exclusive, individual and smarter online viewing room, so public walls created with the iazzu app respond in real-time to the individual browser version. Not only can the artwork and interior design rooms be viewed larger on the desktop, but the details of each piece of artwork are listed, and direct access and sales inquiries to the exhibitors are available for anyone who may not yet have installed the app.

Find out more about iazzu here, where you can also see information and get in touch about their different packages available for art galleries, institutions and artists.

You can download the free iazzu app and view my own profile by clicking on this link. Alternatively, you can download the app via the app store and after clicking on “add new gallery”, type in the code “emily”. You will then be able to look through a selection of my work, and play about with the AR functionality to view the artwork on your own walls at home.

You can also view the desktop version here.

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