Our Observations

2021 - It's a wrap!

15 December 2021

2021 - It's a wrap!

2021 is almost at its end so let’s take a minute to reflect on the year that has been.

After the devastation of 2020, in particular the cancellations of exhibitions and fairs, we all thought 2021 would be better. A number of bloggers and trend observers foresaw a much more buoyant 2021 than the previous year and, while there was definitely some improvement, it wasn’t the emendation the optimists expected. There were, however, major art and technology advancements that will change the lay of the Artworld land going forward. 

Here are some of the key highlights and happenings of 2021 at a glance:

As we know, Covid-19 brought a healthy Artworld to its knees in 2020. According to a Statistica report, ‘the global art market was valued at 50 billion U.S. dollars in 2020, dropping by roughly 14 billion over the previous year, due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.’ For the full article read here. A recent study shows an upswing with contemporary art sales reaching $2.7 billion between June 2020 and June 2021, and NFT’s accounted for one-third of online sales or 2% of the total art market according to Artprice’s annual report mentioned in an article by Art News. Read article. 

2021 saw the Asian art market continue to grow - despite the setback of 2020. According to the Spring 2021 Artnet Intelligence Report, China surpassed the United States last year to become the world’s largest fine-art auction market. According to the article:  ‘In 2017, the Western contemporary sector accounted for 32.4% of all contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s Hong Kong; in Spring 2021, that figure had risen to 58.3%, the highest since the auction house introduced the genre in its major evening sales. By 2025, Asia Pacific will host almost a quarter of all UHNWI's (Ultra high-net-worth individuals), which would be 17% more than a decade ago.Read more here.

The forced move from exhibiting in a physical space to that of a virtual space experienced in 2020 continued in 2021 as most fairs used a hybrid model of virtual and physical spaces to host their events and exhibitions as physical fairs slowly returned. Gallerists and Fair Directors were forced to reevaluate the use of space for exhibitions and re-conceptualise the very idea of space to use it differently from the past. This created a boom in art technology particularly in terms of virtual 3D galleries and online viewing rooms.

Art exhibitions are becoming totally immersive with museums using virtual tour platforms that include sight, sound, augmented and virtual reality innovation. An example of this is the Immersive Van Gogh. Events, exhibitions, and fairs will be doing more of this in the future. Visitors and users will accept this level of immersive experience and it is important for art businesses to stay abreast of the technology and the trends.  

With the temporary closure of most businesses during the various lockdowns enforced across the world, in-person meetings also ground to a halt. Virtual meetings suddenly became the order of any business day and companies like Zoom and Google swelled.  In what’s now been dubbed the Zoom Boom by many, founder Eric Yuan saw his net worth soar by almost 400% in 2020 - that in a time when a number of companies were experiencing considerable losses. This boom continued into 2021.

Social Audio and Social Media Audio were created as conversational meeting rooms that use voice as their main form of communication. Clubhouse, one of the more popular Social Audio apps, launched in March 2020 and became a household name after Elon Musk tweeted that he had been on Clubhouse in January 2021 -  the app instantly became the most downloaded app on Apple Store. What made Clubhouse so popular, was that it was the perfect networking opportunity, influencers loved it, it was exclusive, and initially by invite only. Twitter Spaces, Spotify, and Green Rooms are amongst the most widely used social audio platforms today. 

Read more about Social Audio here.

A key 2021 buzz work is the METAVERSE: According to a Fortune article where a 22 year old breaks down exactly what the Metaverse is and how to access it… ”The Metaverse is essentially a merging of virtual, augmented, and physical reality, and blurs the line between your interactions online and in real life". The Metaverse is the focus of key tech companies. In the art world we can expect to see more exhibitions and art encounters in virtiual 3D spaces which go beyond the single user experience and into multi-user interactive. 

A positive outcome of the Pandemic is that the Artworld developed a heightened conscience. More focus was placed on diversity, and implemented. Museums took a stance against how objects of art were obtained from a legal or moral point of view. A key example is The repatriating of the looted Benin works. And pressure about the environmental impact of the blockchain is mounting. 

NFT’s continued to dominate headlines and auctions alike. Here are some key happenings in 2021:

  • ERC-721, Non-Human Entity - The specification for the ‘non-fungible token’ took first place in the Art Review’s Power 100 - a clear indication that NFT’s have entered the Artworld and are here to stay. For the full list of Power 100, please read here.  

  • The sale of Beeple’s “Everyday’s — The First 5000 Days,” for $69.3 million through Christie’s firmly put Art NFT’s on the map. The artwork is a collage of digital images that were “minted” as a “nonfungible token,” or NFT. This exhuberant price bubble trend is expected to grow but how sustainable it is long term, needs to be considered. 

  • Virtual NFT Exhibitions and Art Fairs are a definite on the cards for next year and we can expect these events to be immersive Viewing Experiences. 

  • A number of blockchain fees are considered too expensive and this will lead to new and more affordable ecosystems and marketplaces. 

Some concerns around NFT’s for 2022: 

  • There is very little regulation around NFT’s currently - this could lead to legality issues or eventual over-regulation. 

  • Intellectual property theft can occur when a number of people who did not create a work, mint it without the permission and knowledge of the creator/artist/the original author.

  • NFT Scams/Fake platforms selling fake NFT’s. 

  • There is no clear indication of where the Artworld and NFT’s will meet and how this may change the Artworld as we know it.

  • NFT’s have naturally attracted a millennial collector and it remains to be seen whether these collectors will continue to buy NFT’s for the love of art, for the perceived resale value, or both. These collectors will drive where art ultimately positions itself in the NFT universe. 

A lot has happened in 2021 and going into 2022 can only be interesting. Armed with the right buzzwords - Metaverse, Immersiveness, NFT, social audio, and connection, 2022 is going to be exciting and in many ways different from 2021. From our side, it’s a wrap and we wish you all the very best for next year!



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