Features / Focus

The Art Market in the Post-Pandemic World – An Interview with Eunice Lee

posted 08 Aug 2022

The Covid-19 crisis has heralded huge changes across every aspect of society. The pandemic amplified opportunities and changes, especially in the digital realm, and people are now paying close attention to digital transformations. The art scene particularly saw unprecedented new phenomena, such as the adoption of virtual reality (VR) exhibitions and online auctions, the activation of online viewing rooms, and the expansion of online art market platforms. Embracing its reopening in the year 2022, The Artro presents special feature to look back and reflect upon the changes that the art world has undergone over the past two years, as well as to project future prospects and outlook. To this end, interviews were conducted with seven visual art experts working in various art fields worldwide.Clara Runge (ZKM), Eunice Lee (Whitney Museum), Johann König (König Galerie), Victoria Siddall (Frieze Fairs), Tim Schneider (Artnet News), Jennifer Pratt (Artsy), Simon Fisher (Ocula) each participated in this project and discussed the transformation of the art industry since Covid-19.

Eunice Lee, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Events at Whitney Museum of American Art

Eunice Lee, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Events at Whitney Museum of American Art

Q. Do you think that Covid-19 has changed the way the art exhibition/market operates? If so, in what ways? (e.g., collaboration with international museums, foundations, etc.)

A. Covid-19 has absolutely changed the way the art market/exhibitions operate. From a logistical standpoint, we think of events and art experiences very differently. Health and safety are of course very important, but it’s a more holistic approach in how we want to engage with our audience from beginning to end. It’s quality over quantity, and knowing what peers are doing so that we are thinking uniquely and creatively. I also think that time is seen differently – exhibition installations are now longer, which is a great outcome of slowing down our calendars.

Q. What are the consequences (pros & cons) of the growth of the online art market/channel? Should we expand or downsize the online market? Can you suggest any specific improvement measures?

A. The growth of online art channels has pushed the art world to be a lot more technology-driven in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. Technology drives data, so it has been a good and accurate way to measure success, engagement, sales, and other data-driven outcomes. But again, art is best experienced in real life, so hopefully these digital platforms will serve as a complement to in-person activities and events.

Q. What are the influences of digital art (NFT, metaverse, etc.) in various aspects? Is digital art as valuable as traditional art?

A. That is a question that has yet to be answered, but I am excited to see what will come out of it. There is certainly a place for digital art within the art world, but I don’t know that it can be seen as more or less valuable than traditional art. Ultimately, it’s what the art market will bear and if it is able to withstand the trends that are evident in the art world. Even traditional art forms have trends that ebb and flow – old masters vs. contemporary art – so this is something where we will have to wait and see. I do think it is important for institutions to be part of the digital art conversation because it’s very relevant nowadays.

Q. Post Covid-19, what is your outlook for the art market? What should each art industry (art fair, gallery, foundation, artist, etc.) do to prepare for this rapidly changing art market?

A. The art market will withstand the post-pandemic world as long as it remains nimble. Digital platforms will continue to be integral, so investments in that area are critical to galleries, museums, auction houses, etc. But art is best experienced in real life and it will be interesting to see how creatively this can be approached. Like I said, I think it will be quality over quantity because people are a lot more selective now in how they decide to show up.

Q. If you have any other comments to add, please feel free to share.

A. When Covid-19 paralyzed the world, the art world shifted to online and digital platforms. Now after 2 years, I think we all see the value in these platforms, but people definitely are craving in-person experiences. The digital platforms reach a broader audience but these numbers have been waning overall. It will be interesting to see how things evolve from here on end. Will a hybrid model for the art market be the norm or will things swing another way? It remains to be seen!

Q. What is attractive about Korean contemporary art? What’s special about it?

A. I grew up in Los Angeles and emigrated from Seoul when I was just 2 years old, so I knew very little about Korean art when I was growing up. When I started working at LACMA, there was a large exhibition called Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, which featured artists like Sooja Kim, Do-Ho Suh, and Jeong-Hwa Choi. I learned so much about Korean contemporary art from that exhibition! When I began working at the Whitney, it was wonderful to learn about the Museum’s relationship to Korea and how we had sent our Biennial to the MMCA in 1993. When our Director Adam Weinberg and I visited Seoul, so many artists and curators told us the impact of the 1993 Biennial upon so many of them. I’m hopeful for future collaborations and engagements between the Whitney and Korean institutions, art, and artists.

Q. Is there any Korean artist you are paying attention to?

A. I hear certain names related to the art market and I, of course, followed the popularity of Tansaekhwa like many other art lovers. Rather than specific artists, I love to see the influence of Korean culture. Places like Genesis House in New York - a new partner of the Whitney - have introduced and highlighted Korea culture to a new audience so wonderfully. It’s about design, architecture, art, food (like the Onjium restaurant) that I find very inspiring.

Related Articles

The Art Market in the Post-Pandemic World – An Interview with Clara Runge
The Art Market in the Post-Pandemic World – An Interview with Victoria Siddall
The Art Market in the Post-Pandemic World – An Interview with Johann König

Eunice Lee

Eunice Lee is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Events at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In her current role, she oversees major corporate sponsorships for the Whitney’s exhibitions, special programs, and capital projects, in addition to the Museum’s robust corporate membership program. She is also charged with overseeing the Whitney’s internal museum events, fundraisers, and the external event rental program.

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