US Galleries Beginning to Recover from Pandemic

July 21st, 2021

Galleries in the United States are beginning to see a glimmer of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel into which they were plunged last year, courtesy of Covid-19. According to the 2021 Covid-19 Impact Survey released today by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), two-thirds of galleries surveyed said they planned to expand their rosters this year, with nearly half noting that their first-quarter 2021 earnings exceeded their expectations. Three-quarters of respondents said they planned to return to exhibiting at in-person art fairs.

The new figures contrast sharply with those of last year’s report, issued in May 2020, and this may be due in part to the shift in makeup of the survey pool, which last year comprised 168 galleries, nearly half of which were in the hard-hit northeastern portion of the United States. This year’s effort encompassed only 81 galleries, 71 of which were in the northeast. Of those surveyed, 70 percent saw revenue plummet during fiscal year 2020, but 78 percent were able to avoid laying off staff during that time, and 84 percent made it through without resorting to furloughs. Roughly 66 percent managed to avoid instituting pay cuts. That a number of galleries are relatively stable at this time is owing in large part to the US government’s fiscal response to the crisis: Some 90 percent of respondents said that they applied for the Paycheck Protection Program run by the Small Business Association, with 83 percent receiving some form of financial aid.

“While it is clear that galleries have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of activity,” noted ADAA president Anthony Meier in a statement, “the ADAA’s 2021 report also demonstrates just how nimble and innovative galleries continue to be, as so many quickly pivoted to virtual programs; found ways to sustain their physical spaces; and retained staff, through an unprecedented period.”