We have the pleasure to talk with Moisés Pérez de Albéniz, CEO from Galeria MPA, and Ester Almeda, Gallery Manager from Galeria MPA in Madrid. Could you tell us a bit about your current activities?
Moisés: We continue with our regular programme, with solo and group exhibitions of our represented artists. For the moment our projects abroad, which include both fairs and exhibitions of our artists in other cities such as New York or London, have been postponed.
Have you recently made some digital adaptations? If so, was this related to the actual situation or not?
Moisés: Since last March we saw the need for a digital transformation of certain structures of the gallery (we launched a new website, started using online sales platforms, conducted a series of interviews with Spanish art professionals, as well as improved our social networks).
What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of this transition to a more digital focused approach, thinking of online viewing rooms, online auctions, fairs, the actual sales, making connections and etc.?
Ester: The main disadvantage is the loss of contact with the artwork. Many collectors are refusing to buy works of art without having seen them first, so the fact that they can only interact with them through images means that many are reluctant to invest until they can return to galleries and fairs in person. The main advantage, on the other hand, is that we have witnessed an unprecedented digital globalisation of the art market, as we have been forced to dump all the content of our databases on online sales platforms, and many collectors have had the opportunity to meet artists from other parts of the world. It’s not that they couldn’t do it before, but between the comfort of the local, and that they perhaps didn’t have the time that the lockdown and the pandemic has given them, it was more difficult.
As the digital world’s domination is growing day by day, would you say that Covid has accelerated the inevitable: a future where art collecting would mostly happen online? Or do you think that after these unusual times it will go back to normal?
Moisés: For us, digital platforms are a complement to all the work that the gallery does physically. With the perspective that this year has given us, an online viewing room can never replace a face-to-face art fair or exhibition. I really hope that once all this is over, we will return to normality, but let’s keep the good that the digital world has given us: namely, greater visibility for contemporary art.
According to the Art Basel 2020 mid-year survey on ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on the Gallery Sector’ 59% of the collectors surveyed felt the Covid-19 pandemic had increased their interest in collecting, including 31% saying that it had significantly done so. How did you experience it? Has there been a difference between June and December?
Moisés: When we talk about the impact on the contemporary art sector, we have to take into account the context in which they occur. Spain already had serious problems in terms of collecting. Few are the collectors who can make large investments, and many are those who make small investments, but spaced out over time. Nor is there a “law of patronage” to encourage them to make such investments. If we add to this the last stages of the 2008 crisis, we find ourselves with a somewhat weak market, which is finding it difficult to withstand the Covid-19 crisis. It should also be noted that most of our sales from June to December have come from international collectors.
An article on ARTnews stated that because of the current situation and not having a lot of distractions to keep them busy anymore, a lot of collectors who had been off for a few years found their way back to collecting. Did you get in touch with previous collectors yourself? Did the digital world help or was it through another medium? How do you see this for the coming months and for when it will be back to ‘normal’?
Moisés: It’s true that we’ve made contact again with some collectors who hadn’t bought works by our artists for a long time. I also think that certain digital platforms may have helped them to remember us. But all this digital entertainment has replaced trips to international fairs, exhibitions in galleries, museums and institutions… I would like to insist on the idea that digital platforms have helped a lot in the promotion of contemporary art (especially abroad) but I don’t consider that they can replace the client’s experience in front of a work, so it’s to be expected that with a return to “normal”, this will be relegated to the background.
Today, more and more galleries are using Instagram as their communication and promotion tool. How do you use it? What digital media do you consider the most interesting for you? And in which way?
Ester: Each social network has a very specific use. The most used digital platform in the gallery is Instagram, as a way of promoting our exhibitions, projects, interviews, openings, etc. As a company, I also think it’s important to have an active Linkedin account.
Have you been aware of collectors who have bought artworks through Instagram?
Ester: Many collectors show interest through Instagram, but It’s unusual for sales to be closed through this channel.
Over the past years, a new generation of collectors have been emerging, so-called millennials. With a new generation there come new preferences. Do you notice a difference when it comes to the younger audience? Did you implement some dedicated ways to work for them?
Ester: Younger generations of collectors are very interested in young artists, with whom they may empathise more. Again, the digital world helps, as they are all active on social media. All this also leads to the appearance on both sides of so-called influencers, that as in all areas also exist in the art world, and perhaps sometimes this ends up distorting in some way the reality of the contemporary art world, for those who don’t live it from the inside.
Do you think that millennials are changing the art world’s ways of working? If so, would you describe this transition rather as ‘subtle’ or ‘very clear’? If not, how do you see the future of the art world?
Ester: As a millennial, I think our generation is more easily grasping the benefits and dangers of the digital world for a business company like an art gallery. Previous generations have not quite adapted to digital, and for some later generations it seems to be the only way of interaction. We’re the generation that has lived through the technological transition in our teens, that lived through the startup boom when we were beginning to study our degrees, and therefore we feel comfortable when working with digital media. I’m speaking from a gallery point of view, but I think it’s the same for artists, collectors and curators.
Lastly – clinging a bit to the New Year’s spirit – what prospects and upcoming projects does Moisés Pérez de Albéniz Art Gallery have for 2021?
Moisés: Our perspective for this year is to continue working, and to take up again all those projects that the pandemic threw down in 2020: a project in New York, with some of our represented artists who live and work in the city; another project in London, in a space shared with other galleries called Cromwell Place, of which we are partners; as well as national and international fairs.
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