Earlier this month, France’s main association of art dealers, the Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art (CPGA), released a shocking poll of its 300 member galleries in which they detailed just how detrimental the pandemic has been and will continue to be on their businesses. The overwhelming consensus was that a third of the country’s commercial galleries may close by the end of the year, making the current crisis worse than that of the financial crash of 2008.
Even with that however, comparing the current pandemic to market contractions of 1990 and 2008 fail to paint a full picture of the market today. Many galleries were already suffering before the current pandemic and the crisis only expedited the process. The majority of galleries polled are based in Paris, where protests from the Gilets Jaunes have rocked the country for over a year and severely hurting the local economy.
The head of the CPGA, Marion Papillon, said that the most pertinent task she faces in her new role is to set a realistic timeline for reopening.
“It will take time for things to get going again, so we need time to do this step by step, and opening is the first step in that process,” she said in a statement.
Georges-Philippe Vallois, the previous head of the CPGA and current director of Paris-based gallery Vallois, under-played the results of the survey and explained that the galleries most likely to close are the ones who were already financially in trouble.
The French government has announced financial support to relieve the country’s cultural sector but many have criticised just how small the budget is: €2 million, in comparison to the €500 million assigned by the city of Berlin for example.During a time when human interaction is at an all-time low, most galleries have looked to online sales to make up for lost revenues. Viewing rooms, online platforms and personal messages from artists have provided much-needed solace for art lovers around the world but they haven’t exactly benefited the blue-chip galleries of the world.
While some are claiming that Europe has seen the outbreak’s peak, many are beginning to plan ahead. The Centre Pompidou for instance announced that it will use its entire budget for the annual dinner gala to buy art from living French artists represented by French galleries.