Arts Business Leaders Call for Collaboration to Help the Industry Rebound

Juliet Helmke, Elyse Luray, Nicole Berry, John Cahill and Elena Soboleva discuss the art market. @RebeccaTaylorNY / Twitter

On Monday, Observer hosted its last pair of webinars in our spring Business of Art series; a succession of conversations between figures from every corner of the art world who generously shared their insights on everything from online viewing rooms to nonprofit leadership. Due to the fact that the coronavirus has upended almost every aspect of the arts community, today’s discussions centered around how public relations professionals and art market leaders were adapting their processes to the conditions being dictated by this brand new world. Many detailed explanations of how their best practices have evolved, but the overarching takeaway from today’s webinars seems to be that within the art world, fierce competition might be a thing of the past. Instead, industry leaders are embracing a collaborative spirit in order to deal with the pandemic.

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Elena Soboleva, the Director of Online Sales at David Zwirner, outlined how the gallery was able to set up its Platform New York initiative (a viewing room hosted on the Zwirner site that presents work for sale from smaller galleries) on such short notice. Essentially, because Zwirner’s digital presence was already so robust, it felt “organic and obvious” to extend a helping hand to galleries that might be struggling to sell work during a pandemic. “We not only had sales of the listed works, we had people going to the gallery’s websites to buy things,” Soboleva said.

Anecdotally, she also added that Zwirner’s initiative had generated over a million dollars’ worth of sales for those smaller galleries via the platform, a sum that indicates collaboration makes good business sense. “We know that we all need to be in this together to survive,” Soboleva said. And this sentiment doesn’t just include galleries: large museums, small museums, nonprofit organizations and art fairs alike have all been hit hard by the global crisis.

Similarly, during the webinar on changing conditions for communications specialists hosted by Observer earlier in the day, multiple panelists mentioned the importance of expressing solidarity with struggling media workers who might have been laid off due to the pandemic. Hannah Gompertz, the Director of Communications and Marketing at the Dia Art Foundation, also said that the rapidly shifting-landscape had inspired “a real appreciation for the importance of creating readily accessible digital content.”

With PR people making more digital content and many laid-off content creators transitioning into careers in PR, it’s become increasingly clear that the arbitrary boundaries that separate professionals in the art world are dissolving. Going forward, this means that transparency and collaboration will likely be valued more highly as both the biggest museums in the world and the most modest local galleries deal with the same problems in real time.

Arts Business Leaders Call for Collaboration to Help the Industry Rebound