During 2020 the Spanish art market it shrunk so much that we went back in time to 2014, a bad year in the historical series. The total turnover of the sector fell to 310 million euros, 37% less than in 2019, which was the best year of the decade. This blow, of course, has been hard, but even more so if we compare it with the global average decline, which was 22%. In other words: in Spain art lost almost twice as much money as the rest of the world due to the pandemic. These are data from the report ‘The Spanish art market in 2021’, coordinated by the Institute of Contemporary Art on behalf of the Fundación la Caixa.
The wound left by the pandemic contrasts with the good data that the sector had accumulated since 2011.
From then until 2019, the art business grew in our country by 46%, more than in France (24%) and in the United Kingdom (36%), no less. How, then, are these very negative figures in 2020 understood? Well, it’s hard to explain. It has to do with the intrinsic weakness of the Spanish market, which depends a lot on state aid, on certain types of support, and which does not have as much resistance as the international market ”, he points out Marta Pérez Ibáñez, co-author, with Clare McAndrew, of this study.
The problem, insists the researcher, is fundamental: «In Spain, collecting is weaker. It is not incentivized as in France, which has a patronage law which allows much higher deductions than here. And there is no artist status that protects the creator, who is the weakest link in the chain. In fact, in 2020 Spain accounted for just over 2% of all Europe’s art and antique sales. And by the way: the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union has not yet translated into an increase in sales in the rest of European countries. The British are still the kings of the continental market.
Beyond the pandemic hecatomb, the document indicates certain positive dynamics. For example, that 30% of gallery owners did not lose money in 2020 despite the decline in sales. The reason? Cost reduction thanks to the ‘online’ business, which adjusted the accounts. Perhaps that is why 44% of entrepreneurs expect an increase in profits in the short and medium term …
«During the last ten or fifteen years the way to grow was to go to more national and international fairs. And that meant costs that were not always profitable. This is one of the data that makes us foresee what the evolution of the market may look like in the short term: cutting costs», Emphasizes Pérez Ibáñez. And he adds: «Young galleries are showing a great predisposition to new business models. They are more open to the international market, they are doing very good ‘online’ communication strategies. It is something that has been noticeable since the crisis of 2008 ».
However, Pérez Ibáñez is optimistic and confident in the economic recovery of the sector: “Just as the market overcame the 2008 crisis, I hope it can overcome this crisis.”