Photography Art Galleries around the world are dying a slow and painful death. While the empty storefronts and haunting ghosts of exhibits past may pale in comparison to the extinction of the dinosaurs, or this weeks mass exodus of employees at Twitter, there is no doubt that like many businesses, the art community has been hit hard in the past eighteen months.
Already up against the wall with the growth of e-commerce over the past decade, coronavirus-related restrictions, a general hesitancy to travel and the current state of the economy have all combined to create a deadly cocktail that many photography art galleries have been unfortunately forced to drink.
While photographers like myself who conduct the majority of their business online have not made it through unscathed by any means, the bumps and bruises we have been taking are slightly more treatable than the tourniquet and blood transfusions that photography and fine art galleries have had to endure. From the coasts of California and Islands of Hawaii, to the streets of Soho and the Sins of Las Vegas, art galleries everywhere are breathing their last breaths.
Mo Money, Mo Problems
The single largest problem that photography art galleries face today is simply overhead. Convincing the steady stream of travelers who walk through their doors that they want or need artwork to decorate the walls of their homes costs money. Big money. If there is one thing for certain, enlightened by the eternal wisdom of the Notorious B.I.G, we know that Mo Money Mo Problems.
Photographic Art in the gallery needs to presented in the finest way possible, with luxurious wood for your feet to walk on, high end lighting systems to bring it all to life and well dressed, silver tongued gallery directors and art consultants to help usher you towards your destiny. All of this glitz and glamour added to the cost of doing business, corporate lease agreements and the cost of producing the work itself cascades into an endless pit of cash. It has always been a balancing act, dangerously teetering between feast and famine but the events of the past two years cut straight to the bone.
As noted in this article by the New York Times, for centuries, dealers have used their own real estate to frame and enhance the experience of looking at art. "These bricks-and-mortar galleries validated the reputations of contemporary artists, and the prices asked for their works. But the coronavirus crisis, and digitalization, are forcing this generation of gallerists to rethink and adapt."
A Lesson In Value Direct From The Artist
A recent survey conducted by The Art Newspaper discovered that as a result of global lockdown, art galleries around the world are expected to lose an average of 72% of their annual revenue. In a recent interview with CNN, Dominique Lévy reported a near “90%” drop in business since the beginning of the pandemic.
As a photographer myself who makes his living selling the same museum quality wall art produced by photography galleries around the world, I have a deep understanding of the costs associated with producing high end artwork both from an artists standpoint and a business one. That being said, I have always felt that all the fanfare and fluff that goes along with running a gallery comes at a cost that in no way benefits the artist or the fine art collector.
The corporate machine keeps on grinding, pulling resources from the pockets of artists who in turn are forced to pass this burden on to collectors without increasing the value of their product in any way.
While artists like Peter Lik attempt to fabricate mystery and a perception of glamour around the artwork they offer, the simple truth is that all photographers today have access to the same production materials and as a result of that fact pay similar costs to produce the work.
For example, a large acrylic mounted photography print costs between $1200 - $2000 to produce. As a collector, nothing changes about the art itself whether you pay $3000 directly from an artist like myself or $15000 from a gallery. I invite you to skip the snooty gallery directors, the uncomfortable feeling of being stalked and keep $12,000 of your hard earned money in your pocket while still discovering beautiful wall art photography from the comfort of your own home.
The Only Constant Is Change
Viewing photography artwork online instead of in-person is growing in preference by the majority of people who enjoy art. While there is no substitute for viewing art in person, there are more and more reasons for consumers to look online, from the cost of investment to protecting themselves and the health of their families. No one wants to go out and stand elbow to elbow, sharing air with strangers inside an enclosed space in 2022. Unless they are drunk. Drunk people still want to do that.
While this fact does cause painful choices to be made by art galleries as a whole, the opportunity for artists themselves have never been greater. The ability to reach your potential customers through the internet means you can sell your art, without selling your soul in the process. As an artist, you have the ability to create real value for collectors of your work, provide a higher level of service and create meaningful relationships with those who appreciate your work. As a collector, you are able to achieve a deeper connection with the work you are purchasing by getting to know the artist on a personal level instead of simply being served wine, cheese and a credit card reader on some really nice wood floors.
Do We Even Need Art?
Art gives us immeasurable personal and social benefits. Nature photography specifically creates the same reaction in your brain as actually being in nature! Displaying art photography of nature in your home has an extensive list of benefits to your health, life and spirit! Without art and creative work, there would be no laughter, no music, no imagination, and no stories. We simply need it to survive. Do we need photography art galleries? Only time will tell.