If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that making predictions is a wild ride. But that didn’t stop us from asking various personalities from the art world to attempt such a mission.
Several topics came up repeatedly: NFTs (what a surprise), industry collaboration, concerns over carbon emissions, and speculation about young artists. Add to that the fact that big auctions will continue to be engineered by increasingly complicated collateral as the market becomes (even more) financialized, and Asian buying will continue to be a life force.
But, as analyst Anders Petterson of ArtTactic predicted, it will be the United States that will tighten its grip this year. “The US art market has spearheaded the recovery, with more than half (51%) of Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips auctions generated via New York in 2021, compared to 43% in 2020. ” This is driven by “pent-up demand, asset diversification and a generational shift in the art market” plus the transfer of generational artistic wealth to the United States, says Petterson, all factors that will only continue in 2022.
We will respect a new seasonal tempo, that of the ebbs and flows of the Covid
Nicola Vassell, New York gallerist
As the Omicron variant spreads, there is also a realization that Covid-19 could become endemic, shaping our lives in perpetuity. New York gallerist Nicola Vassell thinks that if the market will continue to thrive despite inflation, “we will bend to a new seasonal rhythm, that of the ebbs and flows of Covid. Activity will accelerate when viral transmission is low and decrease when the opposite is true.
NFTs may not be affected by transmission rates, but it will be more difficult in 2022. Jason Bailey, the co-founder of ClubNFT, predicts “a crash in the NFT market,” but he’s not worried because “historically, NFTs are more fun and innovative in a bear market.” Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s (quick to action with this Beeple sale last March), foresees “a continuous and deep crossover between the NFT community and the traditional art world, expanding and diversifying the market”. Marc Spiegler, the global director of Art Basel, coming straight from a crypto-laden Miami Beach, agrees: “The NFT space will become more interesting, mainly from a conceptual rather than an aesthetic point of view. Don’t judge this book by its cover.
Yuki Terase, the Hong Kong-based co-founder of the consulting firm World Intelligence Art, believes that NFTs “will revolutionize the way we consume, experience and share art, and this new ecosystem will largely be shaped and driven by new players in the market, led heavily by young Asian collectors”. Art advocate Jon Sharples also sees a maturation of the NFT space with validation of “artists moving from the ‘traditional’ art world to NFTs, secured by the launch of new platforms by the likes of Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth,” he says. However, regulators also have cryptocurrencies and NFTs in their sights and increased controls will inevitably dampen the frenzy.
All of this creates an increasingly polarized art world, divided between NFT believers and skeptics, speculators and sit-back-and-wait-ers. The NFT craze is largely rooted in speculation – players want to make money fast, they aren’t very concerned about long-term appreciation. The same, in analog form, is true with speculation about young painters at auction, resulting in prices of over a million for (largely figurative) works by those under 35. This will only increase in 2022, and with it pinball spin speed, as some high-demand names last one or two auction seasons before being rejected for the next. “Why would it stop? says a London-based gallerist, who wishes to remain anonymous. “It’s too exciting. It’s addictive, like gambling, and it’s grooming; there is no other word for it. There are certain artists who fit the bill – their work should look good on a cell phone, much less so with sculpture and abstraction. Unfortunately, this “is going to leave a very sad trail of short careers”.
Along with this in the primary market, the “buy one, give one free” [to an institution]The trend for the hottest artists will no doubt continue as long as the competition and built scarcity of the primary market continues. And the collections of some institutions will begin (or continue) to reflect market tastes.
Collaboration is key
Collaboration has been a Covid buzzword – an admirable intention, but the elephant in the room is that hierarchy is a market foundation. We will see this year if collaborative efforts such as the “non-hierarchical” International Alliance of Galleries (IGA, launched in 2021) can achieve their idealistic goals. As Joost Bosland, the director of the Stevenson gallery, said in October when announcing the launch of IGA: “I felt a certain frustration at the ease with which the lofty ideals of a year have fallen by the wayside as things get busier again.” The IGA, he hopes, won’t be “just another Zoom project” that comes to nothing.
Thomas Dane, London-based retailer and founding member of the Climate Coalition Gallery, also pledges to “continue to collaborate. Collaboration is so important in a world that seems so divided. He adds: “Last year, the art world came together to tackle climate issues. I really have a feeling this is going to continue to go from strength to strength and we’ll see a greater sense of responsibility on the part of business players and
Will Jarvis, the co-founder of London-based Sunday Painter gallery, also foresees a “continued push towards more environmentally sustainable practices”, while Cerutti promises that Christie’s will maintain its “commitment to sustainability, moving closer to the net zero carbon goal by 2030”. (Cynics, however, will recall how quickly many jumped on planes to get to New York’s auctions in November and Art Basel in Miami Beach in December…)
Jarvis adds that he thinks the art world will become more and more democratized, and that diversity and inclusivity will continue to be an important theme. But the neglected topic of accessibility needs to be added to this discussion – how many galleries and auction houses are fully wheelchair accessible, for example?
Many are in a philosophical mood. Emanuel Aguilar, owner of Chicago’s Patron Gallery, explains that the past two years have been about thinking and “it’s reflected in the way collectors and the industry evolve: what makes sense and what [art] worth the sweat, the blood and tears that are shed there will continue to take center stage”. Trends will always exist, “but for the first time in a long time, I believe the art world will focus on substance and intent more than just fashion – or so we hope.”
As for Aguilar’s resolutions for 2022, well, they seem to suit many of us: “See more ocean, eat more bratwurst, enter more cathedrals and museums, share a cocktail with more friends.”