independent– One of the ways we’ve been making our homes more comfortable and enjoyable in the lockdown is through interior decorating, and a significant part of that has been the purchasing of new artwork. Sales of art across online platforms and homeware shops have skyrocketed, with Partnership Editions (partnershipeditions.com), an affordable art platform, reporting a 254 per cent increase in sales between March and April 2020, with significant month-on-month sales increases around 73 per cent. Meanwhile, riseart.com, another online art marketplace, has reported a rise in customer order values of 65 per cent between April and September 2020 compared to 2019.
Beyond the soaring sales of artworks across these buying sites, there are significant trends at play that reflect the kind of art people are purchasing. As we linger about our homes, scrolling, saving and pinning, art buying trends suggest we’re responding to the crisis one of the two aesthetic ways. Through the prism of art buying, there has arisen a dichotomy in style and content: Vibrant, wistful escapism and moody introspection. Camilla Clarke, a creative director at London-based design studio, Albion Nord, has been quick to point out this trend, saying, “as people are spending more time in their houses due the social climate there has been an increased interest in either starting an art collection or adding to it. Art has become a form of escapism as well as a mark of personal expression to our lives and the times we are living in.”fPartnership Editions Founder, Georgia Spray, agrees and cites the diverse work of her featured artists to support this dichotomy, saying: “Our artists have been using this time to reflect. Some of our artists have been painting holiday scenes of swimming pools, lounging figures with books and bowls of fruit, such as Julianna Byrne. Lusting after holidays and time spent with friends is captured in these escapist works, of which there are many on the site.”
Andrew Martin’s (andrewmartin.co.uk) growing offering of artwork has also experienced sales upticks in the escapist genre. Its larger-than-life photographic plexiglass artworks featuring celebrities across the ages have been selling the most, according to a spokesperson from the company. The most popular piece in this category has been Wonderful World by James Chiew, which depicts a raucous party of iconic celebrities, the ultimate lose-yourself escapist scene.
On the other hand, some of the artists within Spray’s stable are using the undercurrents of loneliness, uncertainty, and quiet contemplation to create works that tap into the uneasy atmosphere of the lockdown. One of these artists is Christabel Blackburn, who has been using the quiet lockdown street scenes as inspiration for her recent works. She says, “I would leave the house once a day for an evening walk and much of the subject matter was collected during these short outings.”
Alias Trate, a Canadian, London-based conceptual artist, has also used the ample time during the lockdown to meditate on the moodier aspects of this shapeless, worrisome year. In a recent pop-up exhibition at 15 Bateman Street, Zeus’ Bastards, Trate showed a series of 16 oil portraits realised in the lockdown, exploring how this period of separation from life as we know it has forced us into a darker introspection. He says, “There has been a steady removal of many superfluous elements in our lives. Like never before, we have had to come to terms with ourselves and have discovered in the lockdown a clarity of vision. We are complex emotional beings, conditioned by light and dark.” Painting has become something of a coping mechanism for Trate, who believes that his painting has helped him to understand the underlying forces that drive his emotions. He says: “Painting is a way to render intelligible and cope with existence.”
It seems that despite the stresses of the year and the pandemic, artists across the board continue to be prolific. A good thing too, as we engage with art at a new level from the socially distanced comfort of isolation.