The Hancock Gallery’s guide to the art market

As part of our ‘Business of Creativity’ feature week here at Bdaily, we talked to Chris Morgan, the gallery manager at Newcastle’s Hancock Gallery.

Chris talked us through how the art market is recovering from Covid restrictions, what trends are out there, and how to make the best investments in art.

Q) How was the art market changed during the pandemic?

A) For obvious reasons early on, footfall took a sharp decline, and has only steadily risen since easing of several lockdowns. Not sure if it’s back to where it was pre pandemic. Luckily our online presence meant we didn’t really skip a beat. Which you might think is strange for art gallery.

When strict restrictions were in place we held ‘virtual exhibition tours’ and digital consultations where clients could visually access and talk about the work with our consultants remotely.

One thing we noticed was, preview events that we held in the gallery at several points throughout changing restrictions, were not as well attended as pre pandemic.

During the breaks in restrictions when the gallery could open, and even now we have utilised online booking systems, to ensure one to one appointments were catered to and covid safe.

One major change I’ve seen, possibly exacerbated by global lockdowns is a trend toward the ease with, and comfort with, digital imagery. Previously nearly all clients would need to see a painting or piece of art in person before buying it.

What we saw during our longest lockdown and still see now, is that people (myself included) are far more confident buying artwork from images. I think platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest etc have made the link between seeing and being inspired by and image, and owning the artwork a lot more seamless and a lot less daunting.

From the beginning of the pandemic to date I would say 70-80 per cent of the artwork we sell at Hancock Gallery sells overseas and is roughly 2-20K in price point.

Q) What is popular in the market at the moment?

A) Quality oil painting has certainly seen a resurgence, something we specialise in at Hancock Gallery.

This is possibly in reaction to the ‘street art’ craze and artwork derived from it, which whilst still popular and fashionable, has started to level out. The new hype is now around the world of NFT’s. I have to be honest, it doesn’t really sit well with me. But I’m sure time will tell how it works out.

Q) If you’re looking to invest in art, what should you look out for?

A) Invest in what you love. I tell this to anyone who asks for investment advice. Imagine tomorrow the artwork you’ve just acquired was worth £1, would you still buy it? You’ll never make a bad investment that way. The real value that artwork returns to you should always be how it makes you feel.

It can certainly be exciting to find new talent and invest in their artistic practice early on while their prices are lower. My advice would be work with a gallery who shares your goals, that way you’re both working toward supporting the artist and raising their profile, therefore increasing the value of the artist’s work.

If you are looking to make money from art, work with a gallery with experience in the ‘secondary market’. After all a wise investment is only thus if you can release it’s equity at the end.

At Hancock Gallery we also deal in ‘blue chip’ or 20th Century masters, such a Dali, Picasso, LS Lowry and Sir Peter Blake, work which is returning back to the market from private estates and collections.

Q) What is the future of commercial galleries?

A) Without commercial galleries it is very difficult for artists to make a living so I think they are vital to a healthy art economy. The future I think lies in being responsive to a digitised world, and this doesn’t necessarily mean becoming more digital, quite the opposite.

Let’s be clear there will never be a better experience than standing in front of a piece of art that moves you, even better when you know you could own it and take it home!
So galleries need to understand that in an ever more digitised world, experiencing art will be become so vital.

Q) Can galleries compete with more artists going online and reaching consumers directly?

A) Some artists don’t want to deal with galleries, and some consumers think they may get a better deal going straight to source, and I can empathise, “who wants pay someone to do something you could do yourself from a laptop?” But I think to see it that way is to miss the very important role a gallery plays in artist’s career.

The role of any good gallery is to work WITH artists. A good artist/gallery partnership should strive to raise the artist to the next level, whilst being uncompromising in the quality of the artwork.

For the consumer, a gallery (should be) a barometer for quality and not just fashion.

Therefore when you buy from a gallery you can be assured that if a gallery is spending time and money marketing an artist, shipping and insuring their work, hosting and photographing a physical exhibition in their gallery space, that they believe in the long term ambitions for that artist. That makes any investment so much safer.

As an artist, certainly direct sales to consumers seems attractive. But then you have to ‘deal’ with consumers. For me an artist should be in a studio surrounded by paint, mess and sketch books, that’s where the best artwork comes from!

Answering emails at 11 at night or calculating marketing budgets and shipping quotes, after sales care and maintaining client relationships, rather than picking up a paint brush or sketchbook, it’s a no brainier.

Being successful as an artist in an ever increasing and hyper-visible art world, is an expensive risk, throw in the time and expense it takes to market and sell the work too, finding the balance to do this successfully without compromising the quality of the artwork can be incredibly difficult.

So seeking the expertise of a good gallery partner is essential. It’s less about ‘competing’ and more about partnerships.

Ultimately if money is all ‘artist’ or ‘gallery’ is interested in then they should go into banking!

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