Features / Focus

How to Win Global Art Market – An Interview with David Field

posted 24 June 2020

This month, TheArtro presents a special feature series titled “How to Win Global Art Market,” that is essential for Korean Contemporary Art’s competitive stake in the Global Art Market. The series, starting with an article by the curator Daehyung Lee, interviews leading journalists, art consultants and art market and marketing specialists from around the world. Discussions on global art marketing trends and strategies over the past ten years are coupled with expert inputs on institutional support to strengthen the international competitiveness of Korean Contemporary Art. Experts interviewed include Carsten Recksik, the publisher of art magazine ArtReview and ArtReview Asia, Jane Morris, Editor-at-Large of The Art Newspaper, Partner of Futurecity, Sherry Dobbin and Louise Hamlin, founder of Art Market Minds, which is a leading platform for art business conferences. In addition, James Green, Director of theDavid Zwirner, Jagdip Jagpal, Director of India Art Fair, David Field, Freelance cultural communications consultant, and Jesse Ringham, Head of Content at the Serpentine Galleries also accepted our requests for interviews. These privileged insights from the insiders of the global art market surely deserve our undivided attention as Korean art sets sights on broader horizons.

David Field is a leading cultural communications strategist

David Field is a leading cultural communications strategist

Q : In the last 10 years, what major changes have there been in global marketing strategies? What kind of roles are being shared and collaborated in global and local media?

David Field : There has been a significant breakdown of the traditional print media and advertising models and a shift from earned media, where the story is told by third party media, to owned media, where the narrative is controlled by the organization. Social media has been a significant driver of this, democratizing storytelling and giving individuals and brands a platform for communicating their content directly to and engaging with the public.

In the art world, this has resulted in all of the leading commercial organisations (including Art Basel, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, David Zwirner and Gagosian amongst others) launching or expanding their content creation and publishing divisions and experienced journalists moving to in-house editorial positions.

Secondly, the editorial landscape has dramatically shrunk, with fewer publications and smaller full-time editorial staff, further consolidating traditional media audiences amongst a select group of major publishers.

Thirdly, alongside a dramatic increase in the number of art events, there has been increasing seasonality in the global art world calendar. Cities now programme a range of commercial and non-commercial activities and encourage collaboration in order to attract a wide spectrum of the art world and amplify their activities beyond their own means. Frieze Week in London (October), Miami (in December) and Hong Kong (in March) are three examples where art fairs have been catalysts for significant growth and expansion of art scenes in specific locations.

Commonwealth & Council, Focus LA, Frieze Los Angeles 2020 Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh/Frieze.

Commonwealth & Council, Focus LA, Frieze Los Angeles 2020 Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh/Frieze.

Q : We are experiencing a rapid change in platform from offline public relations to digital and mobile marketing. How are digital strategies changing, and how do you see its future?

DF : Although the last five years have seen a significant shift towards digital, a balance of online and off-line activation will always be important. In contrast to many other industries, and perhaps more in keeping with the luxury industries, the art world is heavily socially and emotionally driven, with large-scale live events playing a vital role in the ecosystem.

Organizations are still striking a balance between the following activity strands: Paid Media (including advertising), Owned Media (including social media and other self-publishing initiatives); Earned Media (including traditional media relations); partnerships and events. Each of these elements remains important, but the composition of this mix is rapidly changing as the art world responds to the changing digital landscape. Necessity is also the mother of invention – the recent Coronavirus outbreak has impacted the physical artworld through the closure of museums and galleries across the globe. This will force bricks and mortar organisations to think digital-first.

The recent blockbuster Leonardo exhibition at the Louvre demonstrates that the power of a major exhibition can be difficult to replicate purely digitally. It will also be interesting to see how successful Art Basel’s online viewing room initiative has proven to be in catering for and satisfying the audiences that would ordinarily travel to Hong Kong for Art Basel Hong Kong.

Q : In what ways could the art world respond to seismic changes in environmental movement, such as the Coronavirus outbreak, and how will multi-format content publishing be increasingly important?

DF : The growing environmental movement, plus unpredictable global happenings like the Coronavirus outbreak will have significant impact on how and where the art world does business. The art world will still want and need to travel, but people will travel less, more selectively, judiciously and more environmentally consciously. The effect of this will be to reduce the number of major annual events with truly global appeal, and to regional initiatives focusing on clearer audience targeting.

It is important that the international art world is able to respond to these seismic changes.

There has already been an expansion in digital initiatives, including Online Viewing Rooms, digital exhibitions which cater primarily for digital audiences. This will continue, as will an expansion of “digital first” programming, curatorial initiatives and thinking.

Multi-format content publishing will also be increasingly important as content is tailored to specific audiences and channels, and return on investment metrics for social media improve.

Q : What are your thoughts on the impact of technological development (ex. Big data, A.I., etc.) to art market?

DF : This is still a relative unknown, particularly as the art world has historically been very slow to adapt to and embrace new technologies. Often this has been deliberate to maintain a sense of mystery and mystique.

Practically, the greatest impact is likely to be on establishing provenance and ownership of artworks and reducing fraud.

All recent evidence points towards significant and irreversible growth in the online art market, which I only see increasing. Several factors will contribute to this including younger, digital native collectors entering the market, digital-first initiatives focused specifically on digital audiences, as well as improved provenance and authentication of artworks. Socio-economic factors will also contribute to this, specifically the growth in sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyles and the associated reduction in international travel, which will have the effect of moving more activity online.

VR is an interesting proposition for the art market, as we are already seeing significant possibilities and practical applications for artists, galleries, event organisers and museums to expand their digital audiences.

Q : There has been a long history of academic research to strengthen global competitiveness of Korean contemporary art. There is an absolute shortage of publications, journals and channels in English. What policy and institutional support do you think are required for the Korean government to overcome this?

DF : Korea has an incredibly rich artistic tradition, with established biennales, world-class museums, significant corporate patronage and a stable of internationally renowned contemporary artists.

More can be done however to amplify this activity both physically and digitally.

I suggest focusing on a small number of flagship initiatives. At the core of each should be education, scholarship and telling the stories of Korean art and artists.

1. Create a comprehensive digital resource for those interested in knowing more about Korean art.

Capture multimedia contemporary accounts from artists; produce quality English language translation of / repurpose existing materials; commission accessible and critical new perspectives on significant Korean art movements and artists; shine a spotlight on Korean art both in Korea and internationally.

2. Broaden appeal and own the moments: Activate, educate and expand in-bound audiences and encourage collaboration between the commercial and non-commercial art worlds

a) Invest in amplifying inbound events that already attract high quality international audiences (including Gwangju and Busan Biennales), and maximize these opportunities by capturing content to build and maintain interest and promote advocacy.

b) Establish a significant moment in the commercial art calendar for the international art world to be invited to visit and experience Seoul. Ensure quality of all programming including robust conferences and speakers. Hong Kong and Singapore are experiencing difficulties and Seoul therefore has an opportunity to increase its profile.

c) Support expanded media access to these initiatives (press trips etc.) from a central budget, clearly focusing on a few specific target markets, including English-language.

3. Amplify or create opportunities for Korean activity at key international moments eg Venice Biennale, or develop showcases at international art fairs. These should be supported by events, collaborative digital marketing initiatives and corporate philanthropy.

Q : Art fairs are overflowing, from affordable art fairs with limited price ranges to photo-centric fairs. Nevertheless, various attempts are being made to create a new kind of art market. What kind of art fairs do you think Korea needs?

DF : The most successful art centers / cities have at least one flagship art fair, plus satellite fairs, established gallery and museum / non-profit infrastructure and a strong grassroots scene. Korea already has many of these, plus very well-respected Biennales in Busan and Gwangju.

Currently however unlike other major international centers for business, Seoul does not “own” a significant annual moment in the commercial art calendar.

My view is that KAMS should support the creation of a high-quality art fair, similar to the model used recently in Taiwan with Taipei Dangdai, which balance local and international exhibitors, with a clear mission statement and proposition.

This could be supported by smaller satellite fair for emerging collectors / lower price point (similar to Volta / Pulse). There will be the most media interest in Year 1 so it is important to get this right and to appeal to local and international collectors through programming and off-site activity. It is also important to support people in accessing resources and helping people to learn more about Korean art and artists.

There is also strong potential for discovery of artists who are currently unknown outside Korea, which presents an opportunity for the art market.

Q : What other strategies (ex. in online/offline marketing) could there be to internationally promote Korean artists?

DF : As outlined above, a combination of real-world and digital initiatives will be required and could include:

  • Launching new digital and printed educational resources
  • Improved communication and marketing of existing activities in Korea
  • Proactive creation and amplification of international opportunities for Korean artists

Q : How much are you familiar with Korean art history? Which Korean artists do you know, and from what route and point in time were you able to find out about them?

DF : My knowledge of Korean art is drawn largely from UK and international museum exhibitions, the Venice Biennale plus Korean commercial galleries and those who show Korean artists at major international events.

I have long been familiar with the most famous names in Korean contemporary art history including Nam June Paik, as well as leading names in recent history including Lee Bul, Haegue Yang, Kimsooja, Do Ho Suh and Lee Ufan, all of whom who have strong international representation and visibility.

Further knowledge comes from curatorial writing on movements eg Dansaekhwa

Korean contemporary culture more broadly has a huge global audience and I see great opportunities to bring more artists to international attention and acclaim.

Haegue Yang (b. 1971) Installation view of 《Haegue Yang: Handles》. 2019. Commissioned for the Marron Atrium by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Denis Doorly Image provided by Kukje Gallery

Haegue Yang (b. 1971) Installation view of 《Haegue Yang: Handles》. 2019. Commissioned for the Marron Atrium by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Denis Doorly Image provided by Kukje Gallery

Q : What role do you think your current work plays in terms of the overall art ecosystem? And with what areas do you find collaboration important?

DF : Strategic marketing and communications plays an essential role in the ecosystem, from supporting the telling of artists’ stories, to raising the profile of city and national art scenes. All this work is rooted in advocacy, supporting organisations to build and sustain interest and excitement, to educate and inform.

Setting clear ambitions and taking a long-term strategic view are vital, as is securing buy-in from a range of stakeholders.

Collaboration, including strong partnerships and maximizing of resources, is absolutely essential in order for the activity of any scene to be greater than the sum of its parts, and to present a coherent and high-quality narrative that can compete on the international stage.

Collaboration on marketing initiatives including media relations and in-bound press trips, as well as special reports and advertising strategies is also very important in order to ensure good return on investment.

Investment in international expertise is also important. The global art world is ever more competitive; marketing efforts are becoming more sophisticated / well-resourced and the audience (collectors, curators and media) is increasingly time-poor.

Finally, it will be possible to learn from other successful models to fast-track a tailored approach for Korea. Specifically I would suggest reviewing the strong work done by the Brazilian and Hungarian art worlds to create interest and momentum.

Q : . Various programs for securing new collectors are evolving in different ways. What aspects of Korean contemporary art should be strengthened in order to appeal to global collectors? What has changed in the criteria for collectors that they find most important?

DF : Whether looking at the Korean art world for value, investment, new perspectives or passion, education and access to scholarship and information are all very important.

Much of the existing information about Korean art and artists is available only in Korean, or in poor English translations. The creation of a dedicated digital resource to help collectors, curators, media and students to better understand the breadth and nuance of Korean art would be of immense long-term strategic value.

Similarly, as outlined above, the creation of a moment or cluster of events in the commercial art world for Korea (and specifically Seoul) to own is also important. It will create a clear opportunity or moment for international collectors to visit, and for local collectors to experience something new in their own city.

It is also important to encourage the next generation of collectors to see art as something to buy, whether for passion or investment.

Related Articles

How to Win Global Art Market by Daehyung Lee
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Carsten Recksik
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Jane Morris
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Sherry Dobbin
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Louise Hamlin
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with James Green
How to Win Global Art Market - An Interview with Jagdip Jagpal
How to Win Global Art Market – An Interview with Jess Ringham

David Field

David Field is a leading cultural communications strategist with over 15 years’ experience. He has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in the commercial and not-for-profit art worlds for clients including global brands, art fairs, international museums, commercial galleries, and private foundations.

David recently established his own consultancy after 11 years at leading communications consultancy Sutton, seven of these as Director. During his time at the agency, the company expanded from its base in London to employ over 100 full-time consultants in London, Hong Kong and New York.

Prior to joining the agency he spent four years in the press office at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

David has extensive experience of working with governments, funding bodies and the private sector. He works with clients to develop and implement successful long-term marketing and communications, advocacy and content strategies.

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