Loukia Richards, Christoph Ziegler
Edited by:
ZLR Betriebsimperium
Edited at:
Hamburg / Athens
Edited on:
Anna Watson, Dvarapala Brooch, 2020..
Anna Watson, Dvarapala Brooch, 2020.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

“When two bankers meet, they talk about art; when two artists meet, they talk about money,” according to a German saying. Money – a taboo topic for many artists – became a major concern for artists amid lockdowns and cancelled exhibitions.
Demand is increasing
In a press release on 21 September 2021, Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti claimed the Covid-19 pandemic had not affected the auction house's revenues: “The art market has shown great resilience – auctions and private sales at Christie’s have totaled US $3.5 billion in the first half of 2021, rivaling our best performances in the last decade.
The statement highlighted three interesting details: first, Christie’s extensive use of digital tools and live stream auctions; second, the increased presence of Asian buyers, who accounted for 39 percent of the total value of Christie’s global sales; and third, the “huge influx of new collecting clients, 31 percent of whom are millennials.” Cerutti added: “We believe that the demand for artworks and luxury goods will remain aligned with the supply of high-quality objects and collections in the coming months, offering great opportunities for buyers and sellers.”

Barbara Garcia, "Brooch To Monroe". A Girl's Best Friend Project, 2019. Photo: B. Garcia.

Christie's auctions include Jewels Online, featuring status pieces signed by houses like Cartier, Tiffany, and Bulgari. Prospective buyers may purchase collectibles at prices starting in the lower four-digit figures. The news should give contemporary jewelry artists and galleries a reason to reflect upon their own price range.
While demand for art and design is increasing, the market is becoming more competitive. A broad range of choices from different art disciplines at affordable prices is available now. Quality, recognizability, future profitability, as well as the current risk of higher inflation – along with, of course, the prestige and pleasure stemming from collecting art – will continue to dictate buyers' choices.

Wagner Preziosen, jewelry gallery interior, Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany.

Berlin-based gallerist Clemens Ritter von Wagner confirms the buying spree of exclusive, high-end jewelry art and believes that quality boosts salability. “It does not matter if quality refers to technical skills, the artist's concept to material used. I do not like mediocracy,” he says.

Exposure is a survival skill for artists and gallerists
Wagner also runs a virtual shop at the luxury platform 1 Dibs next to his downtown Berlin gallery. “This year I sold an item for a six-digit sum which I would never have imagined I would sell via the internet.” His customers are affluent individuals. “Since Covid-19 they have more money available that they cannot spend in any other way, such as travel, etc.
New technologies, auction and e-shop apps, as well as online shows may work well for some artists, though not for everybody. Success in the online art business takes more than technology.
Poor sales during the pandemic were an experience many independent jewelry artists shared, especially those lacking a strong internet presence or a strong customer base before the pandemic. The cancelation of art fairs – for some, major sources of revenue – was a blow for artists who did not or could not catch up with the online trend.

Geraldine Fenn. Photo: G. Fenn.

Geraldine Fenn, a jewelry artist and gallerist in Johannesburg, was motivated by the pandemic to reach out to the international public and intensify digital marketing. “We deal one-on-one with all our clients; we perhaps have more clients now who we communicate with remotely, but the essence of how we do things hasn’t changed”.
However, aside from more creative approaches than Zoom or video statements, often even something as simple as an old-school ad campaign can make a difference. HSDC Colab, a collaboration project between three initiatives – HandShake (New Zealand), Dialogue Collective (UK), and TempContemp (AU) – placed posters on Melbourne streets during Radiant Pavilion jewelry event hosted at venues across the city in September. “This worked well,” says Peter Deckers, jewelry artist and HandShake’s artistic director.

Educating the public
Deckers believes that supporting the network connections in the art culture is where the State and other institutions should focus their efforts: that is, preventing the down-sizing or permanent closures of museums, galleries and fairs; preserving art and craft education at all levels, from primary to tertiary; and providing opportunities to exhibit.

Posters by HandShake project ‘HSDCcolab’, Melbourne 2021. Photo: Aphra Cheesman.

Christie's holistic strategy supports the corporation's business goals and is worth studying. Along with art auctions and consulting services, it offers educational programs ranging from art history to art management as well as a jargon-free, visually appealing weekly newsletter.
Taste for art can be cultivated. It takes time to build a fan base. However, in addition to offering a broad range of prices, this seller’s strategy guarantees that a wider social segment may bid for and acquire art in the mid-term.

Will the market for contemporary jewelry grow?
The tiny art jewelry niche needs to introduce art lovers and the public to the medium's delights. The success of an exhibition or fair or week or designers' initiative to stand out in a highly competitive global and interdisciplinary environment can no longer be measured by social media likes or followers.
Yet some artists opt to stay away from the market. In Deckers’s words: “I always believed that making an income from your passion holds a danger. Protecting your passion from financial corruption is key to any artistic survival.

Galerie Biró. Left: necklace by Daniel Kruger, 2014. Photo: Georg Valerius. Right: Wilfried Petzi exhibition view. Photo: Galerie Biró.

On the other hand, an artist's studio or a gallery filled with unsold objects may discourage artists to create or add pressure on art dealers to comply with mainstream trends. A balance between the artist's own vision and the market reality is necessary.
Quality, affordability, communication, networks, digital platforms, global competitiveness, and interdisciplinary awareness as well as the ability of the art dealer, gallerist, or fair organizer to attract customers will define jewelry artists' post-pandemic chances to survive.

Artists should learn to talk about money
The intellectual laziness to analyze social issues beyond black or white, disappointment at the limited job offers after graduation, and the illusion that talent means future success create mental obstacles for younger artists seeking salvation in politics – or rather the more fashionable aspects of activism. However, jewelry has always been a social symbol connected to magic, power, and distinction. Demonizing the market, as some voices advocate, is foremost suicidal but also renders jewelry art meaningless.

Alison Shelton Brown wearing ”Ghost Fishing” necklace, 2021. Photo: Robin Shelton.

Art and design schools should urgently introduce career coaching, along with communication and art economics classes. Students should realize that it is easy to preach the virtues of poverty under the banner of ‘art for art’s sake’ while living in an ivory tower. Peer pressure to conform with community illusions rather than daring to seek one's own fulfillment and happiness are additional obstacles to overcome.
The lack of coverage of major jewelry art and crafts events in the mainstream media as well as the unimaginative online presentations’ failure to attract visitors nurture frustration that nobody notices. Many artists feel something needs to change. The Covid-19 crisis has made it impossible to return to the earlier practice of participating in expensive fairs with little or zero financial results.
The broader public's lack of interest in jewelry events should lead to the perhaps heretical albeit liberating question every art professional should ask themself: what is so special about my work? Why should anybody care?

Feinkunst Krueger gallery, Hamburg. Exhibition view: Simon Hehemann, "Sinus Medii", 2021. Photo: Heiko Mueller.

Think of the arguments you will use to convince a total stranger why your work is unique and how the stranger's life would benefit from your art and you’ve already taken a big step towards breaking the spell of the ivory tower.

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