If you were lucky enough to grow up in an artsy town, you know the joys of wandering in and out of shops looking at paintings, sculptures, and abstract art
. For instance, the town of Carmel, CA has been a bustling art town for decades and has turned into a busy tourist destination.
Many of the shops in art towns are also antique stores and have a variety of art spanning across several centuries. You wont find a Picasso, but you can easily find cool art made by unknown artists with major talent.
If you were young enough, you probably remember the kids corner - many art stores had a corner filled with toys and comic books to entertain kids while their parents looked around. The comics were torn to pieces from being read hundreds of times and often had sticky pages, but they were still fun to read.
Unfortunately, those treasured visceral experiences could soon be replaced by online art stores.
COVID-19 is changing the way we experience the process of buying art
For many, the joy of acquiring art comes from viewing and touching pieces in person. Can you imagine a world where you cant see art pieces in person? How would you feel about having to take a virtual tour online to see what art is available and have your selections mailed to your house? Would you feel a connection to the art you buy online?
If youre like most art enthusiasts, you need to see pieces in person. However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, soon there could be no choice.
Buying and selling art is moving to an online format
Although its going to be more difficult for people to establish an emotional connection to the art theyre looking at buying, the process of buying and selling art of all forms is moving to an online format. As retail shops have had to close their doors for good, many art studios have closed their doors as well. Those antique shops with fun corners for kids are also starting to disappear.
This is bad news for segments of the industry dealing with art pieces people want to touch, including sculptures and original paintings. Many buyers want to see the depth of the paint before making a purchase and that can only be seen in person.
Although moving to an online format is bad news for 3D art, its good news for the print industry.
Buying and selling any type of printed art online is easy because the prints can be accurately represented in graphic format and displayed on a website. For example, collectors have been buying and selling comic books
and graphic novels online for years with success. Most people looking for comic books and even prints of famous paintings don’t feel the need to be physically present in a store to decide to buy. They will just order their comic books collection in their favorite online comic books store
. Part of that reason is because they know exactly what they want.
Art stores will need to have an online presence to survive during COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be virtually impossible for art stores to thrive. With worldwide curfews and stay-at-home orders that dont allow people to travel far from their homes, visiting an art store wont be feasible. In fact, if there is another lockdown, art stores will be forced to close.
When art stores are forced to close, the only way to be profitable is to have an online presence. This means art stores selling large, heavy, expensive, and delicate pieces will need to charge more money for packing, shipping, and insurance. With the exception of selling art to rich people
, its going to take a herculean effort for art stores to survive online.
What about comics and graphic novels?
As for the comic book industry, theyre facing a different dilemma. They have the fan base and consumers who will buy online, but its going to take time to transition buyers to an online-only sale format. Just like people who love touching 3D art before they buy a piece, comic book fans love browsing the aisles looking for a new and interesting comic they can get two copies of - one to read and one to collect.
The main problem facing the comic book industry is that currently, shop owners cant make money
, which means distributors cant make money off the shops, which means publishers cant make money off the distributors. The profitability of the traditional sales model has broken down.
Will art stores ride out the pandemic?
Although some art stores will probably ride out the pandemic, well see many close their doors. The art businesses that will survive will be the ones that adapt to the changing times and move their presence online.