Art in the Time of Covid

Although galleries have been closed since March, most have beefed up their online presence enabling art lovers to get their aesthetic fix from the comfort of their laptop. Where galleries used to only have a limited selection of images from the current exhibition on their website, to encourage you to visit, they now have whole exhibitions, sometimes with “virtual reality tours”. Art Fairs, such as the recent FRIEZE New York, also have online viewing rooms dedicated to each gallery, saving the expense (and the carbon footprint) of visiting, and enabling anyone to check out the top end of the art market.

Artistic image
Dorothea Tanning at Alison Jacques Gallery

Many such galleries are now also displaying the prices of the works, previously unheard of at the top end of the market. These innovations make the work very accessible, but still not the same as engaging with a work art face to face. Appreciation of scale is always a problem, as the web is a great leveller, and a modest watercolour is often displayed at the same size as a room size installation. Hopefully things will be back to the “new normal” by October, and Fitzrovians can pop across the Euston Road to visit FRIEZE London Art Fair, on our doorstep in Regents Park. Even if you don’t visit the Fair, you can cavort amongst the 20 or so impressive sculptures installed in the park for the occasion.

The art world has been changing dramatically in the last five years, and the post Covid landscape may look very different. Many art dealers have moved away from the traditional gallery model, preferring to work from a modest office or showroom, rather than high profile / high rent premises, and spending the money saved on taking part in Art Fairs, often all over the world. The hope is that they will benefit from reaching a much larger audience, including their competitors’ clients at these impressive ‘Art Malls’.

In this context, it’s interesting to look at some figures from Fitzrovia. In the summer of 2011, I reported that there were 52 galleries in Fitzrovia – now there are around 25. In the intervening nine years, I have counted 76 galleries that have come and gone, quite a turnaround. The vagaries of the property market are probably largely to blame. There is a cyclical process called ‘art washing’ that happens in central and slightly overlooked city neighbourhoods all over the world. First the artists come, when prices are low; then the galleries move in, making the area attractive; closely followed by developers cashing in on the cachet of the neighbourhood and creating investment residential and retail developments, which pushes up the prices, so the galleries can’t afford to stay (artists are long gone by now) and we are left with fewer cultural outlets, and many empty shops and flats.

Amidst all this cutting back, it is encouraging to see a new addition to the Fitzrovia art scene. The recently opened Eclectic Gallery, 16 Newman Street, appear to be stalwarts of The Affordable Art Fair and have an international roster of artists. Hopefully Fitzrovia galleries will have taken advantage of the Government aid schemes, and will bounce back post depandemication. If not, there seems to be an awful lot of channelling the hidden artist in everybody during the lockdown, with the encouragement of such TV programmes as Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel 4 – maybe this is the answer!

Recommended Fitzrovia galleries with online exhibitions:

Alison Jacques Gallery, 18 Berners Street (www.alisonjacquesgallery.com)

Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street (www.pilarcorrias.com)

Rebecca Hossack Gallery 2a Conway Street (www.rebeccahossack.com)

Rosenfeld, 37 Rathbone Street (www.galleryrosenfeld.com)

Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street (www.tiwani.co.uk)

Tristan Hoare, 6 Fitzroy Square (www.tristanhoaregallery.co.uk)

And finally congratulations to Gallery Different, 14 Percy Street, whose recent charity auction raised £17,110 for the NHS.

Full list of Fitzrovia galleries, May 2020

Alison Jacques Gallery, 18 Berners Street (http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com)

Arup Phase 2, 8 Fitzroy Street (http://www.arup.com/phase 2)

Building Centre, Store Street (http://www.buildingcentre.co.uk)

Coningsby, 30 Tottenham Street (http://www.coningsbygallery.com)

Gallery Different, 14 Percy Street (http://www.gallerydifferent.co.uk)

Eclectic Gallery, 16 Newman Street (http://www.eclectic gallery.co.uk)

Edel Assanti, 74A Newman Street (http://www.edelassanti.com)

Fitzrovia Chapel, Pearson Square (http://fitzroviachapel.org)

Fitzrovia Gallery, 139 Whitfield Street (http://www.fitzroviagallery.co.uk)

Fold Gallery, 158 New Cavendish Street (http://www.foldgallery.com)

Josh Lilley, 44-46Riding House Street (http://www.joshlilleygallery.com)

Narrative Projects, 110 New Cavendish Street (http://narrativeprojects.com)

Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street (http://www.piartworks.com)

Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street (http://www.pilarcorrias.com)

Rebecca Hossack Gallery, 2a Conway Street (http://www.rebeccahossack.com)

Rosenfeld, 37 Rathbone Street (www.galleryrosenfeld.com)

RIBA, 66 Portland Place (http://www.architecture.com)

Saunders Fine Art, 20 Charlotte Street (http://www.saundersfineart.co.uk)

Store Street Gallery, 32 Store Street (http://www.storestreetgallery.com)

Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street (http://www.tiwani.co.uk)

T J Boulting, 59 Riding House Street (http://www.tjboulting.com)

Tristan Hoare, 6 Fitzroy Square (http://www.tristanhoaregallery.co.uk)

Webber Gallery, 18 Newman Street (http://www.webberrepresents.com)

Woolff Gallery, 89 Charlotte Street (http://www.woolffgallery.co.uk)