Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Brookings Institution estimated that the creative industry was on track to suffer a loss in sales of over $150 billion in the United States alone, with the performing and fine arts sectors being hit the hardest. Certainly, looking back, there’s no question that the pandemic hit the art community hard.
UNESCO estimates that 10 million jobs were lost worldwide in the culture and creativity sectors in 2020 alone. Disabled and BIPOC artists, in particular, suffered the most, seeing the highest rates of unemployment in the arts sector.
While these numbers don’t paint a pretty picture, they also don’t tell the whole story. As an entrepreneur working in the arts and events space, I’ve been watching how the art world has responded to the obstacles and setbacks of the pandemic. With galleries closed and in-person art shows on hold, artists did what they do best — they got creative.
Many took the free time they had been forcibly given and dedicated it to projects they’d been putting off. Many more began to explore, in earnest, the opportunities waiting for them in the online space. Web publishing and streaming, as well as emerging technologies such as NFTs and the metaverse, provided ways for artists to expand their reach and experiment with new forms. During the height of the pandemic, it even seemed like some artists were ready to turn their back on the real world altogether and embrace NFTs as their new future.
What the Near Future Could Look Like for Artists and Other Creatives
Now that many of us are back in the real world, this virtual vision might seem a bit extreme. But, with the art world still getting back on its feet, it’s not clear exactly what the real future of the industry will look like. How big a role will the digital world play as the real world recovers? What technologies will still be relevant, and what art will be most in demand?
While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do believe my experience in both the art world and technology has provided me with some insights into what the shape of the art world could look like over the next year or so.
1. NFTs will still likely be a focal point.
While the hype surrounding NFTs has died down a bit over the past few months, that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as a flash-in-the-pan. Not only do NFTs help artists diversify their sales channels and reach a much broader, more tech-savvy audience, but the blockchain technology undergirding NFTs also makes it extremely easy for artists to track resales and collect royalties automatically.
This technology won’t be for everybody, but there are still plenty of compelling reasons for artists and collectors to continue to participate in the NFT scene.
2. More artists will explore the metaverse.
There’s a lot more to the metaverse than Mark Zuckerberg’s avatars. From virtual galleries and museums to immersive experiences delivered worldwide, creatives can harness VR to reach new audiences and explore new forms of expression. The virtual reality space is continuing to grow, and artists still have plenty of room to carve out their own niche within it.
Artists can play a part in making the metaverse a better place to be, designing avatars people actually want to use and creating spaces for others to view and buy artwork, as well as share and sell their own creations. While not everyone will strike gold in the virtual world, the barrier to entry is relatively low for artists who want to see where these new paths to revenue will take them.
3. Urban art could provide unique opportunities for artists and communities.
The Wynwood neighborhood in Miami is an excellent example of what happens when street art is not just accepted but fully embraced. The graffiti and street art of Wynwood Walls played a pivotal role in turning this warehouse district into one of the coolest neighborhoods — a hotspot for tourists and locals alike.
I believe this is a great blueprint for what an art-focused neighborhood can be, representing an exciting opportunity for communities and street artists to get together and remake their own neighborhoods into an urban art utopia. Through partnerships with existing urban artists, other creatives also have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new and exciting trend.
4. The global economy will still play a major role in sales.
While I think high-dollar transactions will continue to largely reside within their own bubble, the majority of the art market is likely going to continue to feel the effects of the economy’s ups and downs over the next year. If a recession does indeed occur, artists will feel it.
While they will likely recoup their losses once the global market stabilizes, it’s important for artists to insulate themselves now by branching out to new sales channels, seeking new audiences, considering new forms of art to create and devising creative royalty strategies to help offset their losses in the short term.
In many ways, the future of the art world looks like the future of a lot of other industries. It will thrive both online and in person. For artists who want to make their future a little more stable, investing in a diverse array of channels and projects could be crucial. Even though the future of the economy remains uncertain, that shouldn’t scare off artists from experimenting and branching out. It’s exactly this type of approach that will make an artist more likely to succeed in unstable times, not less.