Covid-19 and the Australian Visual Arts Economy

10 December 2021, 3:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr. David Challis, University of Melbourne
Dr. Anita Archer, University of Melbourne

Session Moderators

Dr. David Challis, University of Melbourne
Dr. Anita Archer, University of Melbourne

Session Speakers

Dr. David Challis, University of Melbourne
Dr. Anita Archer, University of Melbourne
Max Homaei, Director of International Programming at Yavuz Gallery

The impact of the coronavirus and its associated disruptions in the Australian visual arts economy has, by all accounts, been challenging although not always predictable. For many self-employed practicing artists, the cancellation of commercial exhibitions, the loss of alternative streams of income has resulted in a difficult and damaging impact on their livelihoods. For the Australian art market, the impact has been perversely different. After ten years of stagnant art market activity the pent-up discretionary savings of high-net-worth Australians has resulted in a wave of demand for fine art objects that has not been witnessed since 2007. As with many other sectors of the economy, the coronavirus epidemic has also accelerated the momentum toward digitisation and internationalisation. Coronavirus and the visual arts economy proposes to further contextualise the vexed impact of coronavirus-related disruptions for artists, the Australian art market and the inevitable shift toward digitisation and internationalisation. In the shadow of the Federal government's Inquiry into ‘Australia's Creative and Cultural Industries and Institutions’ and in an environment where mobility and sociability has been highly impacted, the panel speakers will interrogate the impact of coronavirus on the ecosystem of Australia's visual art economy.

PAPER #1
Covid-19 and the Australian Visual Arts Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

PRESENTER
Dr. David Challis, University of Melbourne

The complex networks of production and consumption in the Australian visual arts economy have been significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The loss of income and loss of employment in the sector has directly impacted the livelihoods of many arts professionals and led to a decline in business confidence that will undermine the recovery of the visual arts economy for many years to come. Paradoxically, the pandemic has also created new opportunities for growth and accelerated structural shifts that were already occurring within the visual arts economy. The pent-up discretionary savings of high-net-worth Australians has resulted in a wave of demand for fine art objects in the art market. New trends in digital commerce and the increasing internationalisation of the Australian art market have also become more pronounced. This paper examines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the visual arts economy in Australia by drawing on submissions made to the Parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s Creative and Cultural Industries and Institutions, quantitative data from the Australian Bureau of statistics and other art market sources. The paper then considers possible policy responses available to state and federal governments and key trends that are emerging in the arts-related sectors.

PAPER #2
Digital Impact: value transformation in art world ecosystems

PRESENTER
Dr. Anita Archer, University of Melbourne

The recent boom in NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has been rapidly embraced across the global art world. They offer a novel stream of income at a time of financial disruption caused by the Covid pandemic. However, NFTs are merely one output of an ongoing paradigm shift in global art market ecosystems driven by technology. The Covid-19 pandemic has necessarily accelerated online activity of the visual arts sector due to mobility and sociability constraints. But what are the impacts of technological shifts to global art markets and their constituents? The music industry has already demonstrated sector-changing impacts in creation, distribution and consumption. Equivalent shifts in the visual arts sector portend issues for artists’ income, the roles of traditional mediators (including galleries, museums and auction houses) and the establishment of ‘value’ in this new ecosystem. The relationship between artist and audience through technology is becoming increasingly intimate and entwined. This paper seeks to investigate three key trends in the digital sector of the visual arts – online sales platforms, NFTs and blockchain, and the experience economy – in order to unpack new mechanisms of value creation in visual arts through technology, and the potential impact these may have on artists and their market.

PAPER #3
Impact of Covid-19 on the Australian commercial gallery sector: How restricted mobility and growing digitisation have resulted in an expanded international dialogue

PRESENTER
Max Homaei, Director of International Programming at Yavuz Gallery

The need for structural change within the commercial gallery sphere has been brewing for some years now, only to accelerate at the outset of the COVID19 pandemic. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, cancellations of major art fairs have all contributed to a rapid shift in the galleries’ strategies in order to sustain their businesses and the livelihood of their artists. Throughout the pandemic, turning into the digital platforms was often the only available option. Some of these shifts within the galleries have proven to be positive for both the market and the artists. There are now more opportunities for Australian galleries to have a dialogue with the international art community. The wealthy collectors who previously bought art on their overseas trips, are now encouraged to look domestically and discover new artists from Australian galleries. With the art fairs going online and open to more participants, the reluctant galleries who once stayed away due to the staggering costs of physically participating, are now finding a new platform to showcase their artists to a global art audience at a much lower cost. The positives continue to unveil themselves and are bound to change the art world for the better in the future.

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Biographies

Dr. David Challis, University of Melbourne

Dr David Challis is a postdoctoral researcher and sessional teacher in the Art History program at The University of Melbourne. His ongoing research interests include exploring the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the global art market in addition to researching issues relating to the structure, operation and future developments of the contemporary art market in Australia and across the globe. His research distinctions the 2020 Paul Mellon Centre Postdoctoral Fellowship. David returned to full time study at Melbourne University in 2013 after a successful twenty-five-year career in the Financial Markets Industry based in Australia and London.


Dr. Anita Archer, University of Melbourne

Dr Anita Archer is Research Coordinator for the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Contemporary Culture (ERCC) Research Unit at the University of Melbourne. As an art historian, her research focus is global art markets with particular interest in the dynamics of emerging markets, the strategic mechanisms of international art auctions, valuations and pricing of contemporary art and the networked activities of art world intermediaries. Anita's research interest stems from her extensive professional experience in the global art field as an international auctioneer, and independent art consultant specialising in Asian contemporary art.


Max Homaei, Director of International Programming at Yavuz Gallery

Max Homaei is the Director of International Programming at Yavuz Gallery, a commercial art gallery established in 2010 in Singapore. The gallery’s program is focused on Asia-Pacific region as well as an invited-program of artists from Asia, Africa and United States. Prior to Yavuz Gallery, Max worked at the prestigious SCAF (Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation) where he was responsible for the video content that accompanied all exhibitions and programs held at the foundation. Max has worked with many of Australia and Asia’s distinguished visual artists such as Christian Thompson AO, Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, Pinaree Sanpitak among others.