Pictured: an empty Christie's gallery. The physical art world has come to a standstill. Amid the pause, many are curious to see what happens next.Katie Warren/Business Insider
- The art world is known for its ritzy galas and glamorous dinner parties, which are a large part of its appeal to affluent art aficionados. But all of that changed when the pandemic hit.
- As galleries, auctions, and art fairs move online, the industry is adapting to the digital market.
- But many are still preparing for blowback caused by the global market turbulence.
- Business Insider spoke to five people in the art world to see how they're holding up in the pandemic and what their hopes are for the industry's future.
The week of March 9, the famed auction house Christie's sent out invitations to an evening art lecture scheduled for that Sunday, March 15. But just two days before the event, the invites were retracted, and Christie's announced it was closing its offices throughout the Americas, Europe, and in the Middle East.
This was a signal that the art world, which had still been in full swing in early March, was about to come to terms with a once-in-a-century crisis: the coronavirus pandemic.
"This has been an unprecedented period of disruption in the near 255-year history of Christie's, and the auction industry will certainly experience a financial impact, just as nearly all industries will," Jennifer Zatorski, president of Christie's America, told Business Insider.
That disruption is perhaps illustrated best (and most jarringly) by the change at Pier 90 in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. The weekend of March 5, it was the site of the prestigious Armory Show, an art fair that highlights 20th and 21st-century art.
Just a few weeks later, Pier 90 hosted USNS Comfort, a US Navy hospital ship treating the massive overflow of sick COVID-19 patients amid the city's coronavirus outbreak.
In the span of just a few more weeks, the art hubs of the world — like New York City and London — became coronavirus hotspots. Museums closed, art fairs were canceled, auctions were postponed, and tens of thousands of people died.
"We were in New York on, like, March 8th through the 11th, shaking hands and kissing and doing deals," former art consultant Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, also known as art world meme-maker extraordinaire Jerry Gagosian, told Business Insider. "There have been some major readjustments."
The art world, like all other industries, had no other choice but to adapt. But it hasn't been easy.
To see how the industry is faring, Business Insider spoke to five key art players around the world — the online platform Artsy, Christie's, the millennial art curator Lawrence van Hagen, Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, and artist Enrique Martinez Celaya — to see how the pandemic has impacted them and what changes they're hoping to see in post-coronavirus art world.
Keep reading to find out what they had to say.