Changing threads of art in the times of pandemic

To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often – Winston Churchill

While the pandemic has ushered us to a path, we were not prepared for, it has taught us a new
way of living and introduced us to an almost digital world of working. Though endless
official calls, webinars, online conferences became our way of life; messier homes, never-
ending chores and hyperenergetic kids hovering around our workstations was no less of a
surprise. Yet, we all managed it and learnt that creating work life balance while going digital
is possible, albeit with occasional hiccups.

Nevertheless, for some, these challenging times gushed creative juices, including artists and
creative professionals. Many artists showcased their works on online platforms hosted by
popular museums, art dealers and auction houses. And many collectors and onlookers
sauntered through these virtual galleries looking for a deal. Nonetheless, for eons collectors
and patrons preferred to inspect their investments (art pieces) in person. Settling a deal online
feltlike building a house in Minecraft game. But the pandemic has sure changed this equation
as several art exhibits and museums came to stand still. The hustle bustle of art world was
suddenly replaced by silent galleries and empty walls. But the pandemic urged artists,
curators, collectors to think out of the box. Many museums and exhibitions created virtual
real time galleries that allowed buyers and onlookers to walk through the gallery rooms, stop
by and admire the artwork and select the work they wished to buy. Perhaps, this new change
can bring in more patrons. But virtual art museums are not new, they have been around for a
while before. For example, David Zwirner was the first commercial art museum to introduce
online viewing room in 2017.

Therefore, it seems as though the art world or any market for that matter, may not be the
same again, at least for some time. With changing times and reckoning of coming days, we
may have to rework how we deal with art and what its prospective future could be. Perhaps,
online art sale and deals could be the new normal, although it could never replace the
popularity of admiring and buying an art piece, physically. But before online art galleries
become quotidian, it is important to focus on how to make art selling secure so that the
collectors do not feel the glitch of trust.

Face of galleries and auction rooms during pandemic:
While every sector has seen a surge in digital functioning during this time, art is no
exception. Nevertheless, it is one of those few industries where deals are settled over a cup of
coffee or handshakes. Collectors often prefer to feel the canvas and perceive the brushstrokes
before easing their pockets. Besides, online viewing rooms are not new to the art world but
have been relatively dormant due to lack of demand. However, they have certainly gained
traction in the unexpected times like now. For example, Art Basel Hongkong showcased the
works of various artists on digital platform once their show was cancelled in February 2020.
While, the empty ingress of museum Louvre, despite the revelation of hidden characters in
Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘virgin of the rocks’ X-ray scan, demanded them to try their hands-on
virtual reality. About 10 galleries from India and Dubai have collaborated to launch a group
exhibition online called In Touch, that will function till 24 July 2020. Although not popular in
the world of art due to the lack of touch and feel, virtual galleries and online auction rooms
can certainly fill the gap between artworks and the collectors or buyers in times of pandemic
if the process is rightly put in place.

Authentication of art works:
Whether one buys a masterpiece over a conversation across a coffee table or a computer
desk, one thing is always a cause of concern, ‘authenticity of art piece’. The cynicism
towards owning an art piece is often due to the likelihood of fake works hovering art markets.
This fear multiplies quite naturally when the work is beheld on a screen or a bought online.
Therefore, the need to authenticate artwork before selling or buying is primary.

Traditional authentication:
Provenance defines the origin of the artwork and determine its authenticity. It is an important
document while buying or selling of an artwork. A certificate with artist’s signature if buying
the work directly from the artist serves the purpose of provenance. A signed certificate of
authenticity is often the most common provenance used while an artwork is transacted. A
sales receipt from the gallery or document focusing on authenticity of work by recognized
expert authenticator can also serve as provenance.

Digital authentication:
Technologies like QR code or blockchain can ensure the authenticity of the artworks. In fact,
blockchain technology enables decentralized storage of data that cannot be owned or
controlled by any one person or entity. It can change the way ownership and privacy is
envisaged in digital world. It can ensure secure transactions of authentic artworks from
auctions or art galleries. Whether you want to be sure that you buy authentic works through
digital traceability or get the right price for your time-stamped artwork, blockchain is your
answer. This technology allows cryptocurrency transfers without involving money while
providing authentic data on history of the painting including past ownership, price etc. This is
the safest and proven way to sell, own or auction art works online.

Conclusion: While, corona virus has created a fear of touch among people, art markets have
thrived on this very basic sense since its inception. Yet, this instance of uncertainty is
repositioning the threads of change like never before. While, the patrons may still seal a deal
at auction houses or galleries, chances are they may at least partially be more virtual than
physical. With raising interest in art investments among millennials and youngsters, online
art with foolproof authentication tools may prove convenient and appropriate in stints of
COVID-19 and beyond. Yet, the economic slowdown and recession, had slackened down
active deals on artworks and it may take its own sweet time to revive. In the meantime, lets
hold on to our thread and decide where we want to tie our knot next, while we stay safe from
a tiny virus.