Predictably, online outreach was crucial for making sales in 2020, as digital storefronts replaced physical ones. Walk-ins to brick-and-mortar spaces and fair participation had been the second- and third-biggest contributors to sales for galleries, respectively, in 2019; last year, they were fourth and sixth. Galleries cited their own websites as the second-most important channels for making sales in 2020, followed by social media. Amid those shifts brought on by the pandemic, the most important sales channel remained consistent from 2019 to 2020: direct outreach to existing clients, which accounted for 28% of galleries’ total sales for the year.
Third-party online marketplaces like Artsy held steady from 2019 as the fifth-most important channel for sales in 2020, though the percentage of respondents who said they used an online marketplace dropped from 86% in 2019 to 75% last year. This may reflect a significantly larger survey pool (up from 1,008 respondents in 2019), but also the reality of many galleries launching their own bespoke online sales platforms amid the pandemic shutdown. More than one-third (34%) reported participating in an online viewing room, 31% took part in a virtual exhibition, and 30% hosted a virtual walkthrough or artist talk.
In addition to digital engagement, another key factor in galleries making sales in 2020 was price availability. Among galleries that reported not making a single sale in 2020, 65% said they never displayed prices for artworks. Many galleries did prioritize visible pricing in 2020, and the number of artworks with prices available overall ticked up year over year, from 63% to 69%. This may be partly due to the fact that many fairs strongly encouraged galleries participating in their online editions to publicly post prices or price ranges.