How is contemporary art evolving with the pandemic

Callum Innes
"Untitled Lamp Black / Quinacridone Gold, 2020" | Callum Innes - Oil on Linen 61 4/5 × 63 in (157 × 160 cm)

Today I started my day by working on a new article. After making a cup of coffee, I sat down in front of the keyboard and screen to read a brilliant article called “Looking at Contemporary Art” by Tom Teicholz, published last March 31st on In this article, Tom discusses the state of contemporary art today, the differences between Contemporary Art and Modern Art, he comments on the galleries he has visited, and the artists that are on the scene these days. 

But coming to the end of the article, his the final reflection caught my attention: “Now, at a time when we don’t know how the economic impact of the coronavirus will affect the art industry, we should celebrate what is out there to be seen, even if we are only watching online”. These words got me thinking and I’d like to start writing my article, as a continuation of Tom’s, taking the topic where he left off. Perhaps I can answer what many of us are asking ourselves today: What will the world be like from now on, in the days of COVID-19? And also, what will art be like from now on, these days?

To begin to walk this new path of “How is contemporary art changing in the COVID-19 era?“. The first and most obvious thing is that online platforms are giving answers from artists with great speed, in a way that is unprecedented. New technologies are accelerating all processes and the passage of art from the physical to the virtual world in this “New Covid-19 era” is not an exception. Of course, the virus is not only affecting the way art, in general, is reaching the public, but it is also changing the works of art themselves. As Picasso said after the liberation of France “I didn’t paint the war, but there’s no doubt that the war was in my paintings.”

This disease impacts different places and different people in different ways. Some key factors in our time are the prolonged confinement and the virtualization of almost all our communications with the outside world. Aspects that artists live, suffer, and express in their works, as a way to describe this new world that scares us, but we have no alternative but to face it.

Locked in his studio, Callum Innes has made an oil painting on linen entitled: “Untitled Lamp Black / Quinacridone Gold, 2020”. Callum Innes (born 1962) is a Scottish abstract painter, former Turner Prize nominee, and winner of the Jerwood Painting Prize. He lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland. His work is composed of monochromatic paintings, almost always dividing his canvases bilaterally. For me, this work could be interpreted as the contrast between total darkness and inner light that we are experiencing during these confinement moments. 

The COVID-19 generates an uncertain future for everyone, also for the artists. Due to confinement, the work activity has been paralyzed causing the fall of the international economy and the most vulnerable markets. For artists in general, this crisis has led to the paralysis of their professional activity, causing most a situation of precariousness that will be difficult to overcome when the quarantine is lifted. 

Faced with the obligation to cover basic needs, art will surely be relegated. It is socially common to consider art as a luxury good where artists are undervalued. Although some artists are forced to alternate their creativity with occupations linked to their vocation, such as teaching, for many it’s the work they create that is their main job and their only means of living.

In this situation of a pandemic, the programming of exhibitions, courses, workshops, residencies, projects, and all kinds of artistic-cultural activities have been suspended. Artists are seeing the sale of their works fall, orders are canceled, restoration work is paralyzed and public subsidies are eliminated. This inactivity can cause the loss of all artist’s sources of income and in many cases aggravating a precarious situation that existed before the pandemic.

We are left with the hope that this crisis will spur us on in the search for new solutions. May our imagination and creativity allow us to create new tools to fight against the paralysis in which we find ourselves. Without a doubt, virtual visual media such as museums and online galleries are more than useful in these times. But I wonder if all this is enough? Or if we are witnessing a historical era in which technology not only gives us a way to work and to communicate but also could give artists around the world new tools of expression, new dimensions to express their art and new ways to keep in touch with their audience.

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