Frieze fair goes virtual as art crowd stays home due to Covid

Lanre Bakare, Guardian, October 7, 2020

[...] London's art world usually comes alive in the first week of October as the international art fair crowd arrives in the capital for Frieze week. Last year, 125,000 visitors attended Frieze and Frieze Masters. But in 2020 the parties aren't happening; the jet-setters are - for the most part - staying away and there will be no Frieze tent. Only one physical event will take place: 1-54's Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, which will have 28 gallery displays and can host 250 people at any one time.


The shift to virtual galleries and auctions has had a huge impact on the art market. A recent report from the economist Dr Clare McAndrew for UBS and Art Basel found a 36% dip in global gallery sales in the first half of 2020. Another study from ArtTactic found auction sales dropped by just under 50% during the same period.


Fairs are still a huge part of the art market with sales in 2018 reaching an estimated $16.5bn (£12.8bn), according to the annual Art Basel and UBS global art market report released last year. The same report found that the online art market reached a new high of $6bn, and during the first quarter of this year, online-only auction sales at three of the major auction houses - Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips - totalled $370bn, a five-fold increase on 2019. [...]

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