How Current Events Are Affecting the Art Industry – With Comments From Olyvia Kwok


COVID-19 has completely changed our day to day lives. Businesses have been forced to close, events and activities have been cancelled, and more employees than ever are working remotely. Pretty much every industry has been affected by the pandemic and the art industry is no expectation. The art and creative industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions and have been forced to adapt to the coronavirus-stricken world we now live in. Fortunately, it appears that the art world continues to thrive in most cases, with many successful auctions and art events still taking place this year. In this article, we are going to discuss how the current events are affected the art industry, with comments from prominent art collection Olyvia Kwok.

The impact of current events on the art industry

Current events, most notably COVID-19, have had a major impact on the art industry. The art market has been hit hard by the pandemic and many art professionals have been forced to close their galleries and shops to visitors for many months. This has had an obvious impact on revenue and profits within the art sector.

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, many artists and art organisations appear to be adapting well to the current climate and finding new opportunities for sales. International selling platforms like Etsy and Shopify have become hugely popular during the pandemic. Artists can use these sites to promote their work and generate income online. Some of the industry’s biggest events have also been able to go ahead this year despite the COVID-19 restrictions. This includes London’s art auction week which we are going to discuss in more detail below.

The rise of virtual auctions – London’s art auction week

Many art enthusiasts were thrilled to hear that London’s art auction was still able to go ahead this year despite the COVID-19 restrictions. This was made possible with the assistance of virtual auction portals. Back in October, Philips hosted a live online auction which generated an impressive £8.5 million in sales. The auction focused on 20th Century and Contemporary art and was described by Kwok as “young, hip, trendy, pop culture.” She adds that this is “one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets right now.” Collectors from over 50 countries logged in to participate in the live auction, which featured pieces from famous artists including Banksy and Loie Hollowell. According to Kwok – “My take on the auction last week is actually quite positive. Phillips had an evening auction of what I call ‘short and sweet.”

Other well-known auction houses have also hosted successful virtual auctions during the pandemic. Sotheby’s hosted an art auction last month that saw famous Contemporary pieces being sold for over £1,000,000. Christie’s also organised a 20th Century: London to Paris virtual auction on 22nd October which made a combined total of more than £900,000 throughout the event.

How the industry will continue to adapt

We are all facing a time of uncertainty and it’s not yet known for how long the COVID-19 restrictions will affect our daily lives. With that in mind, it’s vitally important that the art industry continues to adapt to current events and uncertainties. The good news is, modern technology makes it possible for most art professionals to conduct their business activities online. Artists can also leverage online selling platforms to promote and sell their work remotely. At the same time, this means that collectors can continue investing in art pieces and enjoying their passion for art collecting.

In Kwok’s opinion, the art industry will continue to adapt and thrive in the current uncertainties. She states: “The art market is like the stock market. It’s had a steady growth in the last 2-3 years, but now it’s reacting to all the recent uncertainties, i.e, COVID-19, Brexit, the US elections.” She adds: “Overall, the market is fine – it has had a little pause, but as soon as America is OK to go – when the presential election is over – then the market will act accordingly.” She believes that “the consumer market confidence is starting to come back after the summer.”

Final thoughts

As is the case with most industries, the art sector has been affected by COVID-19. The restrictions have clearly caused a disruption, but the industry appears to be adapting and responding well in most situations. International art selling sites are growing in popularity and art galleries are utilising digital platforms to organise virtual auctions and art events. Hopefully, the art industry will continue to be profitable and grow despite the current economic uncertainties.