The year 2020 will be remembered as a time when everything changed. In the case of the art world, there have been no glitzy art fairs or black-tie openings; instead, we’re now doing everything from discovering new talent to attending auctions from the comfort of our laptops and our home offices.

In the first half of 2020 alone, online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips generated $370m combined, proving that buyers have adapted quickly to virtual art acquisition.

This shift online hasn’t naturally correlated to lower sale prices, either. One outstanding example is the recent online auction at Sotheby’s featuring 144 lots from the Keith Haring Foundation. Entitled Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring, the sale achieved sales of $4.6m – which was three times the presales estimate.

This strong performance is partially down to the fact that online auctions are actually great for accessibility. Online auctions are less intimidating for newer collectors or investors and they also allow the buyer more time to carefully consider each piece without the pressure of a busy live auction room.

They can be great platforms to encourage new collectors to experiment and acquire some modest pieces rather than making a hefty investment straight away.

Youssef Boubekeur art
Youssef Boubekeur art

Although it might seem counterintuitive, the Covid-19 pandemic has also been beneficial for the art market since it’s encouraged investors to consider secure and reliable alternative assets as a safe haven for their capital.

While the stock markets have fluctuated wildly over the course of the past year, art held its value very well and can act as a hedge against wider economic volatility.

In terms of the artwork that is available, lockdown has brought a real flourishing of talent since a lot of artists have been stuck at home, allowing plenty of time to allow their creative juices to flow. This has been especially exciting for our emerging artists with many having the time to take their careers a bit more seriously.

This growing pool of talent is great news for galleries like Red Eight which specialises in up-and-coming artists.

Over the past year we’ve been able to sign several very promising emerging artists. These include Lisa Thomson who abstracts the female form with bright colour, shadow and texture, and Youssef Boubekeur who creates quirky Biro portraits of animal heads on suit-wearing human bodies.

This growing pool of talent is great news for galleries like Red Eight which specialises in up-and-coming artists

Both are young creators who already enjoy a solid collector following and a very bright future ahead of them.

Going hand in hand with this is a dramatic uptick in buyer interest in these up-and-coming artists. Our collectors and investors are keen to support emerging artists during these stark times, and that is translating into a healthy market for contemporary art from rising stars.

We’re seeing this trend reflected in big art buyers and corporate collections; earlier in the year Deutsche Bank announced its plans to sell off 200 historic artworks. The bank will use the proceeds of the sale to finance a shift to refocus their collection on to “up-and-coming artistic talents” over the next couple of years.

Another factor driving this interest in emerging talent is a philanthropic desire to protect the arts and invest in the next generation of Banksys and Basquiats. Artists and collectors alike are keen to give back to the local community and support projects aimed at making the world a better place.

Here at Red Eight Gallery we recently released a very limited number of hand-signed prints by acclaimed street artist Panik. We’re pleased to say that this campaign sold out within hours, with the proceeds going to support vulnerable young people in North London where Panik grew up.

While the past year has been challenging for many of us, I can’t help but feel that 2020 has transformed the art world in some very positive ways.

It’s helped make auctions more accessible, encouraged our up-and-coming artists to experiment and create, and fostered a desire to support these emerging artists by buying more contemporary art from lesser-known artists.

And as we inch ever closer to an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, I for one will be hoping that some of these changes are here to stay for good.

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