As the outbreak of COVID-19 has intensified, the UK art market, an inherently international industry, which thrives on both its domestic and global events, has felt the unprecedented effects. Despite this, the art market is proving a very resilient and flexible industry finding new and innovative ways to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances we are finding ourselves in.
Art Law & More brings you A View from the Market, a series of Q&As with figures from different realms of the art world as we uncover how they are adapting to the new normal, their reflections on how COVID-19 could change the future of the art market and the great importance of art and creativity.
We begin the series with Artist, Ben Edge. Ben is predominately a figurative painter interested in folklore and storytelling, whose paintings depict the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. He believes his interests originate from his childhood, where he grew up around colourful and eccentric family members who would tell him remarkable stories. Find out more about Ben and his work here.
What day-to-day challenges or benefits are you facing as a result of the current situation?
The beneficial aspect of isolation for me is that it has given me a chance to stop, reflect and do the little things that I have not had the chance to get around to. I have also set up my easel in my front room and have been working hard painting. The challenges on the other hand include the lack of human interaction and I do miss the community of artists and gallery staff that I am lucky enough to work alongside at Cubitt Studio’s in Angel, Islington.
In your view, how is the global art market changing and adapting currently?
Well, in this day and age we are very lucky to have the internet and the art world is now adapting and creating new ways for people to engage with art online. For example, I am currently taking part in a group show at the James Freeman gallery called ‘Silent Slips’ that explores the enduring need for myth and ritual within contemporary society. Instead of cancelling the show, James has created a digital exhibition in which you can not only see the works, but also watch videos and learn and engage more than perhaps you would by attending a physical private view.
Have you been particularly impressed with any of the ideas or initiatives that particular individuals or organisations in the art market have developed in response of the current situation?
Yes, the Artists Support Pledge set up by Matthew Burrows has been an incredible saviour financially for a lot of artists. For those that have not heard of it, it is a hashtag on Instagram (#artistsupportpledge) that artists can share and sell work for no more than £200 a piece and once you have reached a £1,000 worth of sales you pledge to buy the work of another artist for £200. It is like a mini eco system for artists. I have been creating some pieces specifically for it and as a result have discovered and bought some truly magnificent pieces of art by other artists through the initiative.
What long term effects (positive or negative) do you think this will have on the area of the art market in which you operate?
Well, I think that things will return to normal as there is nothing quite like seeing a beautiful piece of art in the flesh but I think that galleries will also make more of a consistent effort to create additional digital content to go alongside the physical shows. What I have noticed with all exhibitions now going online is that by creating videos, installation shots and generally providing more information on the artists and works involved, that exhibitions are reaching a wider and new audience, instead of just the people that usually visit, follow or are in close proximity with a gallery. I also think that digital exhibitions will become more common even once the pandemic has passed.
Is art and creativity more important now than ever?
Yes. I think as people have more time their repressed creativity will make its way to the surface. What I have also noticed with the artists Support pledge for example, is that people who do not usually buy art have started to buy art and what this demonstrates to me is that there is renewed importance for the beauty of original art within our own homes.
If you are using new forms of technology, do you think you will continue to use them in the future?
Yes, I do for sure. I have finally learnt how to use Zoom and as a result have been able to have the necessary meetings to continue my commissioned projects. So perhaps artists have been forced to become a bit more tech savvy!
What are you doing/what do you think we should all be doing to prepare for when we go back to ‘normal’?
Right now, I am not really thinking beyond the day to day. There is still a way to go until we go back to ‘normal’ so I think that is the best approach for right now. I also think there are many aspects of ‘normal’ to which we will not be returning.
What do you think is the most valuable lesson we can all learn from this new way of life?
I think we can learn what is truly important to us as human beings. Having this forced opportunity to stop, reflect and reassess how our lives were before, how we treat the planet and how we can improve on these things moving forward will give a lasting meaning to the adverse and troubling times in which we collectively find ourselves.
You mentioned the digital exhibition ‘Silent Slips’ that you are taking part in at the James Freeman gallery, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yes indeed, the show is now live on the James Freeman Gallery website and will be taking place until the 9th of May and can be viewed here.
Image Credit: Self portrait with London Skyline (2017) – Ben Edge – Oil on Canvas – 30cm X 40cm