In March 2020, the Professional Committee of Art Galleries (CPGA) sounded the alarm: a third of its members could lower the curtain following the Covid-19 pandemic. Less than a year later, the situation is grim, but less tragic than feared, as evidenced by an investigation commissioned from economists Nathalie Moureau and Olivier Mouate, covering the period from January to October 2020.
Admittedly, 78% of galleries have a declining balance sheet. And the losses suffered are significant: a third saw their turnover fall by 25% to 50% compared to 2019, while another third suffered a decline of more than 50%. Fatally, 25% of galleries had to reduce their workforce. But rare are those to have drawn the curtain. “For the moment, the few closures identified are linked to previous weaknesses”, admits Marion Papillon, president of the CPGA.
No doubt because state-operated safety nets have kept most of them above water. Thus, 59% of galleries have benefited from partial unemployment assistance, 32% from exemption from charges and 45% from the solidarity fund. One in two galleries has also had recourse to the loan guaranteed by the State, mainly those with turnover ranging from 500,000 euros to 3 million euros.
Only a third of the galleries with a turnover of less than 500,000 euros have mobilized this aid, knowing that the banks, fearing the risks of over-indebtedness and insolvency, have only opened the floodgates of credit with parsimony. While 70% of galleries have requested a modulation of their rents, only 38% have obtained it. Main beneficiaries, those housed with Parisian social landlords, who voted in June 2020 to exempt rents and charges for their tenants in the cultural sector for six months.
Public support was also expressed in acquisitions. The purchasing budget of the National Center for Plastic Arts thus doubled during the period under review, from 600,000 euros to 1.2 million euros. In 2021, this public establishment plans to distribute 2 million euros to contemporary art galleries with a turnover of between 80,000 euros and 800,000 euros – ie the majority of French brands.
Above all, since health constraints caused museums to close, galleries, the last bastion where it is still possible to see art and socialize, are always full. “We have an unusual attendance, recognizes Marion Papillon. I saw collectors who had not come for six or eight months. “ But, continues the president of the CPGA, “It doesn’t necessarily translate into overwhelming activity. Decision-making is slower, the atmosphere is anything but optimistic. We don’t know where we are ”.