Galleries open up in Europe
Paris. The Professional Committee of Art Galleries (CPGA) sounded the alarm a few days ago by indicating - based on a study carried out among the 279 member galleries - that a third of them could "not fail to maintain their activity in the second half of 2020". Immersed in uncertainty, the French gallery owners "are sailing by sight," explains Anne-Sarah Bénichou, director of the gallery of the same name in Paris. The entire calendar depends on other cultural players and is based on the reopening of museums and fairs in September. For example, we had planned an exhibition of Marion Baruch in conjunction with his retrospective at the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne which was to travel to Europe. "On the other hand, contrary to the fairs where the respect of the physical distance will pose a problem, the galleries present conditions of reception of the public more favorable, and "for once the lack of attendance will serve us! ", Notes Georges-Philippe Vallois. "We have the prerequisites to be in good standing from a health point of view," says Marion Papillon, president of the CPGA and director of the Galerie Papillon. Compared to other shops, we have no ticket office or cash point. We are preparing a route for visitors meeting sanitary standards, with masks, hydroalcoholic gel and safety distances. We are merchants, and it is essential that we open the stores. "However, it will be complicated to "operate as before," says Jocelyn Wolff, adding that "we will have to refocus on trade. Non-profit activities, such as lending works to museums, will no longer be possible". The Covid-19 crisis does not resemble the crisis of the 1990s or of 2008. "This is a "hibernation," and this time, the internationalization of the market will first slow down fairs and auctions. We gallery owners can thoroughly consider finding a relationship with the collector in the gallery, which we lacked. At first, it won't be easy to move around, so we will have to bet on a Europeanization of the market. This will be an opportunity to revalue this artistic and commercial scene against those who hold the market," maintains Georges-Philippe Vallois, referring here to these major places in the art market that are the United States and China. Some, like Magda Danysz, see it, "Something quite healthy. It is time for the galleries, and especially the more modest ones, to take back the place they had lost". Solidarity between galleries If the environment is renowned for its individualism, the merchants are aware that the crisis must change mentalities: "We must federate and show the importance of solidarity between galleries, explains Anne-Sarah Bénichou, member of the committee of the Paris Gallery Weekend ( PGW). This year, we are going to review the formula of the Paris Gallery Weekend to refocus on the route of the galleries, and create an event as soon as possible. Even if we only have a few people per hour and per day, the quality of the audience that comes back is important. To comply with government health guidelines, we are suppressing the gala dinner, and the PGW will take the form of a gallery circuit, probably without the partner institutions. We have more requests from galleries wishing to participate since the health crisis. "At Komunuma in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis), where four Parisian galleries, In Situ, Air de Paris, Jocelyn Wolff, and Sator, settled in October 2019, it is planned to change the times and days of operation. "We will give priority to weekends by opening one Sunday per month, and by offering specific and exclusive content such as performances and conferences. We will probably open in rotation in August. The situation is critical, we must regain visibility", specifies Antoine Laurent, director of the In Situ-Fabienne Leclerc gallery. "In the short term, that is to say in the coming months, the galleries will be the only physical place, with certain auction houses, which will be able to support living artists," estimates Hervé Loevenbruck. This is the luck that we are going to have because we will have fewer competitors. The competitor will inevitably be selling online, but this should be manageable. "An indirect benefit of the crisis is the increased presence of galleries on the Internet and social networks. The viewing rooms ( viewing rooms ) that have flourished since the beginning of confinement and allow a few clicks to virtually visit exhibitions "We had to react and adapt to this context. We caught up, and even hired a new person to develop the communication aspect of the gallery," explains Niklas Svennung, director of Galerie Chantal Crousel. If there is still significant uncertainty about the economic future of many of them, it is a safe bet that, once the health crisis has ended, the galleries will continue to invest in the Web to encourage the return of collectors within their walls.