7 minute read.
Looking at: 2020
We are nearing the end of 2020. The world has become very small in many cases. Some of you I have not seen in over a year. Other's have seen me for short bursts, picking up artwork and some of you have never seen me outside a video call. It has been a strange year, for all of us. I thought you might like to know what has happened at the gallery this last year. So you can understand what the gallery has been doing for artist, buyers and the growth of the gallery. This is the external business side of the gallery. Sales and markets we operated in. Next week we will share our internal working. Followed by our plans for 2021.
Business Side of Things: Sales
The year started with the sale of three artwork on 2 January 2020 by Adéle du Plessis and Els Kampert. It followed with 5 more sales by the same artist between then and 12 February 2020. In 2019, we only sold 3 artworks at the gallery in 2019, two of which happened on 29 December 2019. So this was very exciting for us. And this surge of January sales seemed to promise 2020 would be a fantastic year. After 12 February, the gallery had no sales until May 2020. It was very disheartening. Between May and June, we sold three more paintings. In July and August sales had become non-existent again. As of 6 December, the gallery has sold a grand total of 15 artwork this year. Most of it under 500 euro. This coincides with the Art Basel art report that came out after the summer. Barely anyone was buying art between 1.000,00 and 10.000,00 euro. Which is the price point the gallery sells art. The total amount of the 15 artworks sold is a little bit higher as the total of the three paintings the years before.
We had two sales fall through due to COVID, one of the buyers had passed away from the pandemic. The work was being restored in one small corner. First, I thought he no longer wanted the painting and was ghosting me. Something that happens fairly often. As in all other cases, I sent a few short and polite emails enquiring if he was still interested. Finally, an auto-reply came back, that the family had lost a husband and father and a redirect. Another sale was simply lost because the shipping times became too long, with COVID restrictions. The collector expressed that they no longer wanted the painting. Both of these sales were for more expensive paintings and would have tripled the year's current sales.
Most of our collectors have, however, been very gracious and understanding when artwork became delayed beyond the control of the gallery. Before the pandemic, we have had some hiccups with sending packages, people forgetting to pick up their painting. Our paintings are shipped insured and require a signature and ID to receive the painting. Due to the pandemic, couriers are no longer require a signature or are allowed to enter buildings. Which has resulted in one painting being accepted by a neighbour. The neighbour then forgot it for an entire weekend out in the shared courtyard. It has been nerve-wracking, to say the least. But luckily sunny and the painting packed in very well to survive elements and falls.
On the other hand, we had a very angry collector, who complained that the courier did not wait for her to open her painting in her house. And then came the earthquake that hit Greece and a painting that disappeared for three weeks. The couriers had to divert their thin resources for distributing earthquake relief. They could not keep their data up to date. Finally, the collector had her work, and the painting had also had its mandatory twee week quarantine in those three weeks. Every crazy shipping story has resulted in us in taking actions so that there will never be the same confusion again. Apart from these, we got to learn about the French art world, due to that most of the paintings sold this year went to French collectors.
The French: Photo Cecile Hournau
As most of the paintings are sold to French collectors, we have gotten to know French Customs very well. After one of the larger paintings was held for over three weeks by French Customs, we learned that they are always on the lookout to find 'lost' or stolen art. Apparently, this zeal comes from almost yearly police busts, where the French police find lost Monet's, Degas and other looted art in bus stops, and by checking paintings sent through Europe.
One artist had also sold several works to collector in Paris. These paintings were not only for private collections, but some adorned the walls of bistro's and boutiques. Her granddaughter was in Paris in the summer. She wanted to visit the public locations her grandmother's work was too be found. Which I hope she did and if she wanted to share her Paris adventure, I would love to read her account.
A little love story also took place in France with the same artists work. Els often creates "sister paintings". One painting was sold to a man. Els expressed to me, she wished that her double paintings should be sold together. As luck would have it, the previously sold painting was bought by the girlfriend of the man. They both have a matching painting in their houses, in cities apart.
The Americans, so many inquiries and sales to the USA. I am just ill-equipped to facilitate these. Why? The import tax. Any goods over 800,00 euro are taxed 1:1. Which means a painting of 1.500,00 euro is taxed 1.500,00 euro. Making the painting cost double the original price. I am unwilling to make two invoices, as this is a fraud. I did not think that this needed to be as explicitly said, but it turns out it does. I hope the Biden administration will amend the import taxes into the USA. Otherwise, I am working on creative solutions with tax attorneys to legally ensure sales to the USA that complies to the law and is beneficial to all parties involved. The amount of US enquiries are too many to be ignored. However, it takes a lot more organization and trust between me, the collector and the artist to facilitate US transactions.
The gallery has mostly French and Belgian clients. And US clients patiently waiting at the other side of import restrictions. However, this was never our intended market of collectors. The gallery's original plan was to participate in Asian art fairs, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. All of which have open ports. That means no import or export taxes for goods. Also, these are booming art markets. However, in January 2020, I received an email from an art fair in Hong Kong that their spring fair will not be held, due to the protests that started in the previous fall. Some of you will remember I had been set to go to that fair in the fall of 2019. The protests in Hong Kong for Democracy resulted that the fair was poorly attended and the economy in Hong Kong was expected to stagnate. They would inform us when they would restart again. They expected to see the economic impact in the rest of Asia as well but hoped to be back in the fall of 2020. As of writing this, the Art Fair of two-decades-old seems to cease to exists and other fairs indefinitely postponed. Hong Kong will cease being a democracy. The gallery then decided to focus on the Dutch and UK market, while this played out in Asia. But the pandemic hit and Lockdown was enforced. During the summer, more fairs were cancelled in Europe. Leaving us at a loss of where to go. So we stayed online. And redoubled our focus here. We will elaborate on how we did this in thee next post.
Wrapping up the External Business
Gallery Sorelle Sciarone has seen an increase in sales in 2020, but necessary income. All our profits were reinvested and thus became expenses. So growth is our mindset and will be the coming years.
We have gotten to know the French cultural scene very well. We have also learned a lot of import taxes and customs the USA, but have not been able to make use of this knowledge in 2020. We look forward to using our gained knowledge to further the careers of our artist and to invest our profits into the careers of our artist and other art professionals. We are very greatful for the advice and patience of everyone involved this last year.
The next post will be about what has happened internally in the gallery. These posts are for all those brazen callers at 22:00 in the evening. But also for all those too polite souls who would like to know but not intrude too much.
Art Historian Tascha Sciarone in her favourite red dress (her graduation dress) in the forest. Photo Benjamin de Groot.