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Art Basel fair. Image credit: Louis-Fabrice Jean.

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According to the latest Art Basel and UBS mid-year survey 'The Impact of COVID19 on the Gallery Sector’ the share of sales made online was 37% of total sales in the first half of 2020, up from 10% in 2019.

The report found 72% of the galleries surveyed increased the online content offered through their websites and other online channels compared to the previous year, while 69% increased their social media activity.

The report was put together by Dr Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics and it surveyed 795 galleries operating in the Modern and Contemporary Art sectors, representing 60 different national markets. 

The report said the “pandemic has had and will continue to have a critical impact on sales in the art gallery sector, particularly given the industry’s reliance on events, travel and discretionary spending”.

Sales contracted by an average of 36% in the first half of 2020. The majority of galleries expected sales to continue to decrease in 2020, with only 21% expecting a recovery in the second half of the year.

There was more optimism for 2021 but, even so, only 45% of galleries expected sales to increase from 2020.

Clare McAndrew said: “The art market has often shown resilience to events in the wider economic and political environment, but the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has presented the market – and the gallery sector in particular – with some of its biggest challenges yet.

"Despite finding ways to maintain trading online, the pandemic has had and will continue to have a deep and profound effect on businesses: some galleries have already closed permanently, others have furloughed or laid off significant numbers of employees, and the effect on those that remain open is still unfolding.

“Along with these negative effects, crises can also be unique times of restructuring and innovation within markets. This study is a first attempt to better understand the full impact of the present COVID-19 crisis, the strategies taken in response to it, and the changes it will bring to the sector over time and across different regions of the market.”