“How the Widening Income Gap Is Affecting the Art World” is a recent Nonprofit Quarterly article describing how small and mid-sized galleries are closing in New York (as reported in the New York Times). Both articles focus on how “mega-galleries” and art fairs or biennials like Art Basel and Art Miami are shutting out smaller dealers and, of course, squeezing artists’ sales as well. ART at the top of the food chain is increasingly viewed and treated as an equity investment that’s held by collectors who then flip the art (like real estate) to the highest bidder for a big profit.
This trend reflects the intense commercialization of art and how this, in turn, reflects the widening wealth and income gap in the U.S. Yes, art structures like galleries are breaking down, the funding base for arts nonprofits is narrowing, and only a few artists can make it big. But perhaps this shake-up (like other big shake-ups in our society as of late, e.g., the financial sector, politics, health care) is revealing opportunities as well? What re-structuring is possible in the foreseeable future?
It’s a chaotic landscape, yet many artists are finding ways to thrive via alternatives like pop-up galleries and house parties that put a greater share of sales directly into the pockets of artists. Online spaces like Artful Home and Redbubble offer opportunities for artists and artisans/makers to sell their work, including to collectors.
What’s next? What’s possible for artists and creators as they move into the new frontier?