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2020 was undoubtedly an unprecedented year, the year of online and the virtual.

Like all sectors, the world of art was also affected by the pandemic, we have seen a new initiative and a re-directing of resources, an adaptation to new display and communication methods.

In response to the lockdowns that forced us at to stay home, museums, galleries and institutions quickly organized themselves to offer visits to their collections on virtual tours.

Not only the exhibitions, but also the fairs have become visitable and commercially available in viewing rooms. I believe that this phenomenon could remain active even after the reopening of the spaces.

Social networks like Instagram and Facebook have become the meeting place between artists, organizations and the public, offering interesting live broadcasts and other forms of communication and it is good, because the art world was almost the only sector not yet operating in this mode. Many museums around the world have immediately turned to these platforms to give access to their collections without borders.

Other major exhibitions, such as the retrospective at the Tate Modern dedicated to the South African artist Zanele Muholi, the dialogue between Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch at the Royal Academy of Arts, Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Gallery in London, have been canceled, postponed or reopened for short periods.

There has also been a lot of talk about the traveling exhibition on Philip Guston which would have opened in June at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, canceled due to the pandemic and further postponed due to some works depicting the Ku Klux Klan that could be misinterpreted by the public and attract criticism in the year of the “Black Lives Matter”.

The movement engaged in the fight against racism has in fact also involved the art sector, triggering reactions of solidarity from many artists and institutions. In recent years we have already witnessed a great growth in Afro-American art – a sign that something has been changing for some time – and now I think they will have even more visibility. Just during the London auctions in February we witnessed new amazing personal records for the most popular black artists of the moment, Tschabalala Self, Amoako Boafo and Jordan Casteel. It is no coincidence that this year the Black Lives Matter movement is at the top of ArtReview‘s Power 100.


Tschabalala Self, “Princess”, 2017

Fabric, acrylic, hand hair and oil on canvas

Sold for £ 435,000 including tax at the Phillips auction in London on February 13, 2020


Amoako Boafo, “The Lemon Bathing Suit”, 2019

Oil painting on canvas

Sold for £ 675,000 including tax at the Phillips auction in London on February 13, 2020


In addition to the exhibitions, the Biennials have also been postponed, first of all the Venice art review that will take place in 2022 – henceforth it will always be held in “even” years.

Almost all fairs have been canceled – places par excellence for collectors and gallery owners from different countries – with a few exceptions such as Manifesta 13 in Marseille, which in any case closed one month early.

After canceling all three 2020 appointments, Art Basel also postpones the Hong Kong edition scheduled for March 2021 and postponed to the end of May. But there is also good news, as Online Viewing Rooms and other multimedia experiences have brought a decent level of sales, confirmed by the lively exchanges at Art Basel Miami.

Frieze Art Fair for the London appointment has combined virtual tours with small events in the city and for the first time the galleries have transformed their London offices into real booths to be visited by appointment.

Frieze then postponed the Los Angeles stage to the end of July 2021, while in February there will be 3 days of special (online) programming to celebrate 30 years of activity.

2020 has therefore triggered many changes and all the actors of art – artists, gallery owners, curators, directors of fairs and museums – have had to rethink organizational methods, the maintenance of existing structures and the development of new strategies.

But as we well know: not all evil comes to harm.

Some have allied themselves and almost all digitized. And thanks to this, a new era of communication will begin also for the world of art, which had remained among the last in modernization.

Of course there were some difficulties to face, such as the staff cuts also made by art giants – from large galleries such as Perrotin, David Zwirner and Pace Gallery to important institutions such as the Guggenheim in New York, the Tate Modern and the Royal Academy of London – all forced to close for a very long period.

Probably, when they can reopen and return to normality, things will return to the way they used to, but digitization will certainly remain an additional service forever.

In addition to the Coronavirus, Brexit is also destined to partially change the geography of European art. 

Some galleries have in fact decided to close their offices in London, such as Marian Goodman, who will close the space at the end of the year to give space to a new exhibition mode – “Marian Goodman Projects”. The initiative will organize exhibitions in different places in London depending on the nature of the works and the project.

David Zwirner, a gallery with offices in New York, Hong Kong and London, to cope with Brexit has also opened a gallery in Paris, a city destined to become the European center of contemporary art. Pace Gallery and White Cube also followed his example.

A news that closes a chapter is the closure of the famous Blein/Southern gallery founded in London in 2010 with offices also in New York and Berlin. In February, the closure of all three galleries was announced and there are rumors that the causes are serious financial problems, to the point of having to return the works to the artists with the shipping costs to be borne by them.

Another certainly unexpected announcement for the entire art market is the closure after 26 years of activity of the New York gallery GB enterprise of Gavin Brown, a great dealer and pioneer to join and become a partner of Gladstone Gallery (by Barbara Gladstone). It will present only 10 of its artists: Joan Jonas, Ed Atkins, Arthur Jafa, Rachel Rose, laToya Ruby Frazier, Kerstin Brätsch, Alex Katz, Frances Stark, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Mark Leckey.

Laura Owens, Jos de Gruyter, Herald Thrys instead will not be part of Gladstone Gallery.

The value of collaboration between different realities was therefore rediscovered – even among those that were previously considered competitors.

In Italy, for example, Italics was born, a consortium that brings together over 60 Italian galleries of contemporary, ancient and modern art aimed at enhancing the territory of the Bel Paese with advice to tourists ranging from historical and artistic beauties to visit to food and wine excellences not to be missed.

The “Milano Art Community” was created in Milan, a platform managed by some of the most important galleries, foundations and non-profit spaces in the city to promote the initiatives of its members.

As we have seen, in this atmosphere of great uncertainty there was also no lack of positive implications such as the many solidarity initiatives that involved established artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Tracey Emin, Marlene Dumas, Martin Parr and others, but also galleries and houses of art auction like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Artcurial – all engaged in numerous charity sales.

Hauser & Wirth recently launched the “Artists for New York” fundraiser: more than 100 artists have decided to donate their works for a charity sale in support of some institutions in the city including MoMA PS1, the New Museum and the High Line Art. (Hauser & Wirth has waived any sales commission). 

Also Italy has activated many initiatives of charity, from the personal mobilization of artists such as Alessandro Piangiamore who sold the work “La cera di Roma” (purchased by Veronica Siciliani Fendi) on Instragram, the proceeds of which were donated to the Hospital Spallanzani in Rome, up to initiatives by auction houses such as Blindarte with “Art To Stop Covid-19” – the proceeds went to the Lombardy Region and the Pascale Institute in Naples; or the Cambi auction house with “Design Loves Milano”, a charity auction to help the Luigi Sacco hospital.

In a year hit by so many losses, Italy and the whole world have also mourned one of the greatest curators and art critics in history. Germano Celant passed away at the age of 80 precisely because of Covid-19, perhaps taken in New York during one of the last fairs in attendance, the Armory Show.

Theorist and founder of Arte Povera, Celant had made Italian artists known to the world. Curator at the Guggenheim in New York and of many exhibitions in foreign museums, director of the Venice Biennale in 1997, since 2015 he was the artistic director of the Prada Foundation.

The major auction houses – forced to cancel or postpone scheduled appointments as early as March – have run for cover by taking on different forms rather than traditional ones. The use of online, private rooms, the growing Asian market and the launch of “cross category” auctions – an approach that has changed the offer model by merging the various departments – have partly leveled the situation. However, the top three auction houses suffered a significant decline in sales – for Christie’s  – 25% compared to 2019, Sotheby’s -27%. In numbers, compared to $ 4.4 billion in 2019, 2020 generated sales of $ 0.9 billion.

The lack of live auctions has therefore generated a decrease in turnover, also due to the fact that many customers have preferred to give up selling important works while waiting for better times for their valorization.

While ten lots exceeded $ 50 million in 2019, this year only two lots exceeded this figure.

First place was the “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” (1981) by Francis Bacon, which reached $ 84.6 million on June 30 at a live auction at Sotheby’s.

After the Chinese classic masterpiece – which took second place on the podium – we find Roy Lichtenstein, with “Nude with Joyous Painting” (1994) sold for $ 46.2 million at Christie’s on 10 July.

David Hockney follows with “Nichols Canyon” (1980), which was changed hands for $ 41 million on December 7 by Phillips, which reached the highest total for a NY auction in the history of the auction house.

A sign of a lively market despite the complicated year, capable in some cases of surprising and exceeding expectations.


Francis Bacon, “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus”, 1981

Oil on canvas



Roy Lichtenstein, “Nude with Joyous Painting”, 1994

Oil on canvas



David Hockney, “Nichols Canyon”, 1980

Oil on canvas


Fortunately, there was no shortage of successes, such as the 8th edition of “Contemporary Curated” by Sotheby’s which on April 22 broke the record for the most profitable online auction ever totaling $ 6.4 million (estimate of 5, 75 million), thanks to a catalog full of masterpieces and Margherita Missoni as Guest Curator.

Online auctions have brought in an influx of new buyers – many millennials – and seen a 20% increase in profits over last year, apparently high, but lower than the revenues of a traditional auction – a way to stem the crisis – so much so that Sotheby’s fired around 200 employees in March (around 12% of its staff).

For the first time, the Turner Prize was divided into 10 scholarships of £ 10,000 each, awarded to as many artists: Liz Johnson Artur, Oreet Ashery, Shawanda Corbett, Jamie Crewe, Sean Edwards, Alberta Whittle, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Ima -Abasi Okon, Imran Perretta and the Arika collective.

The traditional collective exhibition dedicated to the finalists has not been organized but the winners of this edition may be re-elected in future editions of the award.

The winner of the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize is Deana Lawson, an American photographer whose research focuses on social issues and family intimacy in African American culture.

Emma Talbot wins the eighth Max Mara Art Prize for Women. The English artist explores inner landscapes full of thoughts, emotions and personal stories in delicate works painted on silk or other textile media and include sentences written by the artist or taken from other sources.

Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga wins the Prix Marcel Duchamp – an award born in France in 2000 – with “Flowers for Africa”, a project that reflects on the political and social history of African countries.

Returning to Italy, Palazzo Strozzi in Florence was able to adapt to the times and extend the long-awaited “Aria” exhibition by Tomás Saraceno, which was suspended a few weeks after its opening and which at the reopening received a great response from the public.

The highly anticipated monographic dedicated to Carla Accardi at the Museo del ‘900 in Milan, scheduled for the beginning of October, was also able to bring a sigh to culture, precisely in the window of openings between one lockdown and another. Over 70 works on display by Accardi – the first internationally recognized Italian abstract artist – will be open to visitors until the end of June 2021. 

2020 was a special year and it is clear that it will take time to reach a new balance, but each period of crisis always brings new opportunities and allows us to see things in a new light. We still have a period of transition and many other changes ahead of us – certainly positive!

… The art does not stop!


“The Shades Of The Art Rainbow Are Endless: Choose Your Favorite!”

2019 – What a year!?

Without a doubt, 2019 will be remembered as a year of transition.

A year full of political and financial uncertainties which consequently also reflected on the art market.

Although the art world was confident, not anticipating major changes in Europe’s so-called “big apple” – London – Brexit led to the closure of some galleries and the opening of their headquarters from London to Paris, to name some of them: – White Cube, David Zwirner, Pace Gallery.

The year was enriched by the 58th Venice Biennale curated by Ralph Rugoff “May You Live in Interesting Times” which – as the title suggests – proved to be a true reflection of the climate of great changes we are experiencing, with works focused on current themes concerning international politics, environmental emergency and social problems such as the issue of migrants, the feminist movement, racial and gender equality.

On the occasion of the Biennale, the city’s foundations and museums have prepared exceptional exhibitions such as the retrospective on Jannis Kounellis at the Prada Foundation, Arshile Gorky at Ca’ Pesaro, the monograph on Georg Baselitz at the Academy Galleries, Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, Pino Pascali at Palazzo Cavanis and Alberto Burri at the Cini Foundation.

With a witty appearance the street artist Banksy, not officially invited to exhibit but also inevitable figure that this year has caused a lot of talk about himself, was also noted.

In addition to this performance followed by a mural in the Dorsoduro district, Banksy was able to anticipate and ride the Brexit wave with the work “Devolved Parliament“, strategically put up for sale by Sotheby’s on the occasion of the last London auctions prior to the exit of the Great Britain from the EU, marking the record for the artist with 11.1 million euros.

Always on time on occasions, this time anticipating Christmas, the artist offers his version of Santa Claus on a wall in Birmingham, rendering the tragic beauty of the holidays into flesh and blood.

Instead, Maurizio Cattelan, on the occasion of Art Basel Miami – after 15 years of absence – presented his new sculpture “Comedian“.

The edible banana attached to the wall with adhesive tape and priced at 120,000-150,000 $, was a winning strategic move to get the whole world talking about it, and it is clear that the old concept of the value we attribute to things is reconfirmed to be still very much popular.

Cattelan had leapt to the headlines already in September when his work “America“, a massive gold toilet, was stolen during his recent solo show at Blenheim Palace, Oxford.

2019 was a year characterized by very important retrospectives dedicated to great artists, such as Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern in London, Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy, Mario Merz and Cerith Wyn Evans at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan, the aforementioned Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace in Oxford, Lucio Fontana at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and many others.

The result of 4 years of work, with almost 80 works on display, I would say that the exhibition of the year was “The Young Picasso – Blue and Pink Periods” at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, where even the prestigious monograph on Rudolf Stingel had a huge feedback.

In international auctions the climate of uncertainty was recorded in the appearance of a smaller number of works valued above 20 million dollars, perhaps a symptom of a period of little confidence.

Despite this the general results were quite positive again this year, so much so that we have witnessed excellent records, including Jeff Koons who has reconfirmed himself as the most paid living artist in the world with the “Rabbit“, a sculpture of 1986, sold at auction in May by Christie’s New York for 91.1 million dollars.

It was a year of great changes for the historic Sotheby’s auction house – founded in 1744 – which passed into private hands following the sale last June: entrepreneur and collector Patrick Drahi bought the giant of the sector for 3, 7 billion dollars.

The main international trade fairs have registered excellent sales and the recently concluded Art Basel Miami, featuring a positive climate, seems to be no less so.

Similar to it, Frieze London has also enjoyed excellent feedback from the public and buyers, so much so that in the climate of uncertainty many have called it a bubble of happiness.

Also Fiac in Paris saw a great success both in sales and in public, a result obtained also thanks to the first benefits of the shift of interests.

The Turner Prize – established in 1984 – was for the first time assigned to all four finalists, Lawrence Abu Hamdam, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani.

The innovative proposal came precisely from the artists through a letter to the jury explaining that at such a difficult time, their choice to present themselves as a collective is a symbolic gesture in the name of sharing and solidarity, in art as in society.

Technology, including new startups, art created by artificial intelligences or Cryptoart – a market that involves only digital works of art to be purchased with digital currency is also playing an increasingly important role in the art world.

We are in the era of interactive images and many museums are moving to accommodate new methods of using and learning. In Italy, the M9 in Mestre and the MAV in Ercolano are an example, the new generation museums that use advanced technologies and immersive installations.

The desire to live a 360° cultural experience is increasingly leading to the creation of virtual tours in many cities of art, the most recent promoted in Milan on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

In recent years, online art sales have shown considerable growth (in double figures) and have produced revenues of about $ 6 billion, a sign that the art market – very traditional in structure and dynamics – is opening up more and more to new languages.

I imagine that the future of art will reserve us many beautiful surprises and also in 2020 there will be fun!


“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”


October is about to end and Brexit – now at the door – could change the games.

In a positive or a negative way?

It is a question that everyone is asking, but apparently doubts about what could or could not happen for now remains uncertain, pending the agreement between the parties.

London – considered the “Big Apple” of Europe – has a very important role and position within the art market and its success is due in particular to the English regulatory model, which sees import taxes at 5% – the lowest in the EU – and Brexit could represent another opportunity for Great Britain to be even more competitive on the global market, implementing a regulatory review closer to its competitors USA (0%) and China (3%).

European Union legislation, with its complex bureaucracy and costly administration, allegedly penalized the London market by placing it in a position of disadvantage compared to its big rivals, New York and Hong Kong.

Brexit could therefore represent an interesting opportunity for Great Britain, free from the constraints of the EU, but it could also lead to a significant weakening of the market, since the exit from the European Union will stop the funds and financing of which the United Kingdom and its many museums and galleries have benefited from, not to mention individual artists.

An example of the monumental sculpture “Angel of the North” (1994-1998) by Antony Gormley located in Gateshead, was financed exactly thanks to EU funds.

Already at the time of the referendum many internationally renowned artists such as Tacita Dean, Wolfgang Tillmans, Michael Craig-Martin, Banksy, the aforementioned Antony Gormley and many others – had taken the side in favour of staying within the European Union by actively joining to the “Remain” campaign by creating works of art, posters and slogans.

Strong concerns were also expressed by historical institutions and institutional roles – from the director of Tate Nicholas Serota to Martin Roth – director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, also worried about the consequences of the lack of European subsidies dedicated to research.

But it’s not just about funding. In addition to the disappearance of legal and economic facilities, the possible weakening of investments and the impact on the economy in general, other obstacles such as export licenses will also have to be taken into consideration.

Many of the leading players of the art-market are in fact evaluating a possible withdrawal of the works deposited in London, as Larry Gagosian, who apparently has already begun to move assets from London to the offices of Athens, Basel, Geneva and Paris.

Certainly London will no longer represent the world airport for the importation of works within the European Union and it is precisely the French capital that is preparing to take up the baton, having the second lowest European taxation with 5.5% .

Some important galleries – including White Cube, David Zwirner, Pace Gallery – are already planning to open Parisian offices and the city is ready to reap the rewards of moving capital, a situation that could therefore favour the French market.

Conversely, the galleries that have scheduled shows from November onwards have been organized in advance to bring the works to Great Britain, in order to avoid the risk of new rules on customs duties.

For now, despite the uncertainties, London continues to maintain its central role – just think of all the museums, galleries, international fairs and auction houses that have their headquarters here – and the good results obtained from the auctions just concluded and from the fair Frieze confirm it.

Regardless of favourable predictions or not, what emerges is the important repercussions on the global market implied by the United Kingdom leaving the European Union that make the close correlation between art, politics and the economy even clearer.


“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”