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Art buyers turn to online sites

22 August 2020

To build up the arts again after lockdown, central and local governments quickly reframed their investment strategies to support the arts through subsidies and targeted funding.

However, sustainable recovery from seven weeks of lockdown has been largely dependent on New Zealanders, now confined by extended border closures, vacationing at home and making the arts a part of these holidays.

Surprisingly perhaps, many indicators seemed to attest to the fact that that is exactly what they did do. Post lockdown, New Zealand recorded the biggest percentage increase in Airbnb and short-term accommodation bookings in the world, testimony to the fact that New Zealanders have embraced the concept of domestic tourism with great heart.  

Tellingly, Auckland War Memorial Museum reported higher visitor numbers this June than the previous year, this was mirrored at MTG Hawke’s Bay in July. It seems that arts and culture is, in fact, a key interest of New Zealand holidaymakers. 

Although visitor numbers have been high, revenue suffered, with many public museums and galleries predicting major revenue drops in the 2020/2021 financial year due to a drop in ticket sales and restrictions around venue hire.

In the commercial sector though, art auction houses, frustrated at having to postpone live auctions due to alert level restrictions, were rewarded in the months following lockdown with record sales at auctions across the country. 

Auction house Director Lee Melville, says art has traded well in the last few months.  She puts it down to New Zealanders who are “usually overseas during winter months and are choosing to spend their travel money on things for the home.” In June, Melville’s auction house recorded its highest sale ever and interestingly, their ‘New Collectors’ show, an auction for lower priced works held in June, recorded the highest sales they had ever had in that category.

Things in the primary market have also been looking buoyant according to local art gallery owner Richard Boyd-Dunlop. “We are sitting in the box seat in the Bay” he says. “With the borders closed we’ve seen an influx of Aucklanders and Wellingtonians who are usually overseas, travelling to the Bay with money in their pocket. We’ve been able to capture this market for the future also, forming enduring relationships with many of these collectors.”

Boyd-Dunlop said that online sales continued over the lockdown period and, in the last few months, the gallery has consolidated the website as a key point of sale. “Of course sales were all online during lockdown, and following those months, growth in online sales has continued until it is now about 60 percent of our total sales.”

Auction houses too, have been making sales through auctions held online, this is a fairly new approach for art auctions and these have undoubtedly been a great success. We will more than likely see online auctions in the future, whether we are under alert level gathering restrictions or not.

Now that Auckland has returned to alert level 3, we are hoping restrictions on travel for Aucklanders won’t adversely impact the upturn felt in the Hawke’s Bay art and culture sector over recent months.

For locals and those from other regions travelling to the Bay, it’s great to be able to get around and there is plenty to see in the arts at the moment. Try getting to Tika Tonu at Hastings City Art Gallery, or the Local Lockdown show, curated by Clayton Gibson – now toured to Central Hawke’s Bay Museum in Waipawa.

For those of you planning a visit to MTG, we have the newly opened art exhibition On Art and Activism and some truly wonderful art works in our exhibition Rongonui – Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga. Hope to see you here, or at other art venues to appreciate the arts kanohi ki te kanohi.


Image: Turquoise Shield, 1983-84 by Claudia Pond Eyley (b.1946) acrylic and collage media on canvas [5943]. On display in the exhibition On Art and Activism at MTG Hawke’s Bay  

23 August 2020

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