Last week, CNNMoney Switzerland interviewed Swiss art dealer, Dominique Lévy—whose gallery, Lévy Gorvy has spaces in New York, London and Hong Kong—where she said business is down 90% and the “market is at a standstill” awaiting new price indicators. She identified re-negotiating fixed costs as her “first duty” and did not rule out selling inventory at a loss to keep the business going as long as she can.
As for shifting sales online, Lévy was unconvinced by Art Basel’s first attempt online viewing rooms. The fair substituted its Hong Kong fair cancelled due to the pandemic with its inaugural online viewing rooms in March. The effort saw an initial wave of high engagement. But the New York-based dealer was not impressed. It was “an interesting experiment that doesn’t work,” Lévy told CNN.
The virtual fair drew some criticism over its limited navigation. But Lévy went further in her critique of the idea of a virtual fair calling it “the 180 degree opposite of what an art fair is about.” The dealer speculated that most sales came from direct outreach from galleries asking clients to look at their online viewing room, not from “having a conversation” or speaking to friends or “having fun.”
More significant to the resumption of art selling, Lévy raised serious doubts about the return of real art fairs in 2020. She cited immediate factors, “art fairs are not relevant right now” and the longer-term idea that an art fair would be an “imposition” of travel, stress and danger for her clients.
With this comment, Lévy also acknowledged that she would participate in art fairs, if they are able to be held, especially Art Basel, FIAC and TEFAF in New York.
Levy also expressed concern for the future of the Art Basel’s holding company MCH group as well. Levy’s concern echo a larger sentiment across the art and luxury industries over the lasting impact of the pandemic on the viability of global trade fairs going forward. MCH was already entering into a shaky re-structuring plan earlier this year that was met with skepticism by shareholders. In October, the group announced it’s plans to re-invest and re-organize its structure to focus its business on its trade fairs segment and looking into a full or partial liquidation of it events division, the Live Marketing Solution segment. The plan was based around the expanding the wide success of Baselworld, whose future remains uncertain.