15 Trends Set to Propel the Art World Forward

1. The Resurgence of Net Art in the Digital Age

Net art, a genre that emerged in the mid to late 1990s, has seen a revival and reevaluation. Artists like Jon Rafman have revitalized old and new digital works, such as Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s “Get Well Soon!” for an online exhibition linking Shanghai, Seoul, and New York.

The piece surveys 200,000 comments from GoFundMe campaigns to highlight inequalities during the global pandemic. Other notable works with promising futures include Ye Funa’s interactive “Dr. Corona Online” and JODI’s “ICTI.ME,” which mimic social media glitches.

Michael Connor, artistic director of the New York-based digital-art hub Rhizome, attributes this new wave of net art to the growing need for connectivity and the shift from working online to a vital way to access culture and community.

2. Surrealist Art Market Soars with Magritte Leading the Way

In recent years, the market for Surrealist art has seen a significant increase, with artists like René Magritte, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dalí setting record auction figures. The market for Magritte, who set an auction record for The Pleasure Principle two years ago, has seen the highest number of sold lots and record auction turnover of over $108 million. This strong commitment from buyers continues to cement the movement’s legacy in global collections.

The market trend of artists resurgence is reflected in the secondary market, with exhibitions like “René Magritte: The Fifth Season” at SFMOMA and “Dalí & Magritte” at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium attracting robust investment. This trend reflects a growing appreciation for timeless artworks and a shift towards recognizing undervalued artists.

The resurgence of Surrealism parallels a broader trend towards representational and figurative work, with artists like Jonathan Gardner, Julie Curtiss, and Nicolas Party embracing the dreamlike aura and striking juxtapositions of the movement. The fascination with the subconscious, explored in Surrealist art, has been a major factor in the recent turn to figuration today.

15 Trends Set to Propel the Art World Forward

A “Moorish” twisted-wire chandelier, ca. 1895.

3. Innovating Sustainable Art Shipping: The Rise of Eco-Friendly Solutions

Shipping art around the globe can leave a significant carbon footprint. Andrew Stramentov described it as a “fantastic amount of waste” based on his experience working with businesses like the Gagosian gallery and Sotheby’s. This motivated him, along with Verity Brown, a former registrar for Gagosian and Pace Gallery, to create a sustainable shipping product that balances climate consciousness with robust protection.

Launched last year, ROKBOX crates are constructed from lightweight recycled or recyclable materials and can be reused hundreds of times. “We are trying to make the art world more sophisticated, less burdensome, cheaper, and easier—it’s ripe for adding a bit of sensible stuff,” Stramentov said.

ROKBOX isn’t alone in this endeavor. The Independent art fair and the storage and logistics company Crozier have introduced a collective shipping arrangement, consolidating artworks for mass transport between Los Angeles and New York. This initiative, according to Independent cofounder and CEO Elizabeth Dee, emerged from discussions on the growing need for an “ecosystem of sustainability” in the arts.

4. Embracing Immaterial Art: A Shift Towards Ecological Consciousness

“This is the moment of the most immaterial art we will have,” said Lucia Pietroiusti, curator of the long-running General Ecology research project at the Serpentine Galleries in London. “There is a sense that materials should be let go.” This signifies that the art world is now ready to address the ecological impact of its practices, particularly concerning the materials artists use.

Kara Walker attracted significant attention with her Tate Turbine Hall commission, Fons Americanus, a 44-foot-tall memorial to the transatlantic slave trade made from biodegradable cork, soft wood, and jesmonite. The installation was ultimately dismantled, and its materials recycled. Earlier this year, Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of London’s Serpentine Galleries, emphasized a new approach, stating, “ecology will be at the heart of everything that we do.”

As part of this ecological shift, the South African design studio Counterspace was awarded a Serpentine architecture commission for a pavilion constructed from cork and recycled bricks. Additionally, the “Back to Earth” initiative, conceived partly to celebrate the Serpentine’s 50th anniversary. Invites artists, scientists, musicians, poets, and interdisciplinary thinkers to propose projects addressing climate change.

5. The Evolution of Gallery Representation: Artists Embrace Multiple Partnerships

The traditional belief in the art world is that artists are left behind. When a mega-gallery takes on an artist, but this trend is changing. Artists are increasingly maintaining relationships with galleries of various sizes, even as they move to larger platforms. For example, Henry Taylor joined Hauser & Wirth while retaining ties to Blum & Poe. Nicole Eisenman joined Hauser & Wirth while retaining ties to Anton Kern and Vielmetter Los Angeles, and Adam Pendleton signed with David Kordansky.

Maggie Kayne, a partner at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery in L.A., believes that the best approach to working with artists involves strategic partners. Who offer diverse skills, connections, networks, and strategic insights. She predicts more movement in this direction. As even mega-galleries have limitations and can benefit from cross-pollination with different networks to expand an artist’s career.

Tim Blum of Blum & Poe emphasizes that savvy artists remain independent and avoid exclusive commitments. Leveraging their positions when negotiating deals. He believes that collaborations and co-operative arrangements are the best way to go. As many in the art world are realizing the limitations of the mega-gallery model.

Jasper Johns, John Delk, and Julian Lethbridge at the installation of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts benefit exhibition of posters in 2006.

6. Embracing Multilingualism: Museums Expand Their Reach

“Our museum brings the world to our city and our city to the world. Part of that is making sure that more people feel welcomed and accepted,” says Nikki DeLeon Martin. Chief external affairs officer at the Phoenix Art Museum. In recent years, the museum has become fully bilingual, ensuring all signage, wall text, catalogues, and online content are available in both English and Spanish. This is particularly significant given that over 30 percent of Phoenix’s population are native Spanish speakers.

This trend of multilingual communication is growing globally, as museums strive to engage wider audiences. For instance, the Whitney Museum has included Spanish wall texts in recent exhibitions. Such as this year’s “Vida Americana,” which highlighted the influence of Mexican modernism on American artists. Similarly, the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative has emphasized cross-cultural art in California.

As DeLeon Martin emphasizes, “Museums are meant to meet people where they are. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of other institutions. That will join in efforts like these—it’s important work.”

7. The Evolving Role of Artists in Modern Museums

Artists have significantly influenced the rethinking of institutional collections, with notable works. Such as Amy Sillman’s “Artist’s Choice” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and Carrie Mae Weems’ exhibition at the Guggenheim. Museums are now inviting contemporary artists to collaborate through commissioned works. Such as Kent Monkman’s grand paintings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Wangechi Mutu and Carol Bove’s sculptures for the Met’s facade, and Jeffrey Gibson’s installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles launched the “Open House” series. Where Gala Porras-Kim explored the museum’s storage facilities, questioning how the institution preserves art. Artists view collections as resources for uncovering deeper knowledge and histories. Highlighting the importance of artists in rethinking institutional collections and creating works that critically engage with them.

8. The Art Market’s Digital Transformation

Sotheby’s 20th Century Design co-head, Jodi Pollack, faced uncertainty when shifting her mid-season sale online due to the coronavirus crisis. Despite concerns, factors such as a robust design market and a captive online audience played in their favor.

The sale exceeded expectations, totaling $4 million, Sotheby’s highest-ever for an online design auction. A Tiffany Studios chandelier sold for $300,000, twenty times its estimate. By early April, Sotheby’s online sales had generated $36 million. More than double the previous year’s amount for the same period.

The pandemic catalyzed the art market’s shift online, with online art sales growing by 11% in 2019, with 64% of global clients participating online. New buyers predominantly engaged through online sales, recruiting 41% of new clients. While online sales only comprised 9% of the $64 billion global art market in 2019. Galleries are now focusing on content-driven engagement, with digital strategies, including promotional videos, remaining vital.

Auction houses are also enhancing their online presence. With Matthew Rubinger of Christie’s. Highlighting a shift from printed catalogues to dynamic online storytelling, which has shown to increase visitor engagement and bidding propensity.

9. The New Wave of Virtual Performance Art

David Grubbs described a recent experience with “The Quarantine Concerts”. Where he performed alone in an apartment. But felt connected to an audience of 450 people from places as far as Europe and Suriname. Despite the inherent value placed on real-time presence in performance art. Virtual performances are gaining acceptance and appeal among both artists and audiences. This trend mirrors the success of opera and theater broadcasts, which have transitioned to smaller screens.

As a poet and author, Grubbs has a keen understanding of audience engagement, and he shares this vision with others. Who see a promising future for online performances. Tim Griffin, executive director and chief curator of the Kitchen in New York. Highlights the potential for deeper engagement through online platforms. Griffin notes that virtual programming, like their “Kitchen Broadcasts,” can offer a unique form of intimacy and personal connection. Providing resonant, enriching, and soulful experiences.

Kara Walker, Fons Americanus, 2019.

10. Bridging Art and Science: Collaborative Efforts to Address Climate Change

As scientists tackle complex issues like climate change. Artists are playing a crucial role in communicating these challenges through creative means. The TBA21-Academy has initiated art projects focused on the warming of the world’s oceans and the resulting environmental impacts. Following this example, many institutions are integrating scientific research into ambitious artistic endeavors.

In Brooklyn, Pioneer Works has developed a comprehensive science program that incorporates collaborations with physicists and astronomers. Featuring notable scientists in engaging and dynamic programs. The upcoming 2024 edition of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time series. Themed “Art x Science x LA,” will highlight the interplay between Los Angeles’ art and scientific communities. Including contributions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, with its rich history of science-based exhibitions and partnerships. Will also participate, showcasing their integration of art and science through programs with the California Institute of Technology. “We see this as an opportunity to show how the Huntington lives and breathes on a daily basis at the intersection of art and science.” Stated Christina Nielsen, director of the Huntington’s art museum.

11. The Power of Collective Action: Reflections on Art and Community

In the realm of art, the essence of collectivity permeates, as noted by David Lewis. Whose gallery participated in David Zwirner’s collaborative online program during the pandemic’s economic repercussions. Lewis observed artists continuously probing the concept of belonging. Akin to the transformative impact of seeing Earth from space in 1968. This sense of interconnectedness has spurred collaborative models like the Condo gallery-share program, fostering mutual support among galleries and museums.

Stacy Tenenbaum Stark, as executive director of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA). Reflects on the enduring legacy of artist-driven initiatives, from Jasper Johns and John Cage founding the FCA in 1963 to today’s Artist Relief Fund. Stark envisions a future where artists’ generosity and solidarity will continue to thrive.

Robert Wilson underscores the richness of collaboration, even amidst disagreements. While Camille Henrot exemplifies grassroots collective action with the Mask Crusaders, mobilizing artists to produce and distribute protective equipment during the crisis. Henrot emphasizes the importance of continuous movement and assistance to those struggling to stay afloat. Drawing a poignant parallel to swimming in the water of collective endeavor.

12. Art World Shakeup: Marron Collection Bucks Auction Tradition

After the passing of renowned art collector Donald Marron, speculation arose about the fate of his extensive art collection, valued at nearly $500 million. Initially anticipated to be auctioned off, surprising news emerged in February that Marron’s collection would instead be divided among three prominent galleries—Pace, Gagosian, and Acquavella—for independent sale. Although postponed due to the pandemic.

This unprecedented collaboration is poised to challenge the dominance of auction houses in high-value art transactions. Art advisers predict that similar arrangements will become more common, as galleries prove to be formidable competitors to auction houses, particularly for estates valued under a billion dollars.

13. The Rise of Veganism in the New York Art Scene

Since the mid-1990s, when Chelsea emerged as a prominent hub in the New York art scene, the customary dining options at Bottino, a popular spot for post-opening dinners, included classics like calamari and charcuterie, with main courses like salmon, steak, or pasta. However, there’s been a noticeable shift towards vegan choices, with galleries now offering dishes like cauliflower steaks and tofu tacos.

Alexander Gray Associates, led by Alexander Gray and David Cabrera, transitioned to a fully vegan menu in 2011. Reflecting their commitment to compassion and environmental sustainability. This trend extends even to renowned galleries like Hauser & Wirth, which has opted to redirect dining expenses towards conservation initiatives like Art for Acres instead of hosting lavish dinners at events like Art Basel in Switzerland.

14. Alex Katz: The Ascension of an Artistic Icon at 93

As Alex Katz nears his 93rd birthday, he’s experiencing a resurgence in recognition and market appreciation. The Guggenheim plans a major retrospective, signaling a turning point. Despite lagging behind peers like Hockney and Richter in market value, Katz’s auction prices are soaring, with recent sales exceeding $4 million. Dealer Thaddaeus Ropac notes a growing interest in Katz in Europe, reflected in museum acquisitions and private collections.

American institutions are catching up, with the Met holding significant Katz works and the Guggenheim announcing a retrospective. Katz’s decision to join Gavin Brown’s Enterprise added contemporary relevance to his profile. Brown praises Katz’s fearlessness and confidence in his continued painting at 92. Resonating with both younger artists and the primary market.

15. Digital and NFT Art

Digital art refers to artwork created or presented using digital technology, encompassing a wide range of mediums such as computer-generated imagery (CGI), digital painting, animation, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). With the proliferation of digital tools and platforms, artists are increasingly exploring the creative possibilities offered by digital mediums, pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms and experimenting with new techniques and aesthetics.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have recently gained widespread attention as a groundbreaking innovation in the art market. NFTs are unique digital assets representing ownership or proof of authenticity of a specific piece of digital content, such as artwork, music, videos, or collectibles, stored on a blockchain. Unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, which are fungible and interchangeable, NFTs are indivisible and cannot be replicated, making each token unique and scarce.

The combination of digital art and NFTs has opened up new opportunities for artists to monetize their work and reach global audiences directly, bypassing traditional gatekeepers such as galleries or auction houses.

By tokenizing their artworks as NFTs, artists can establish provenance, ensure authenticity, and receive royalties for secondary sales, providing a new revenue stream and greater control over their creative output.

As technology continues to evolve and the boundaries between physical and digital worlds blur, digital art and NFTs are likely to remain influential forces shaping the future of the art world, opening up new possibilities for artists, collectors, and audiences alike.

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