Updated: Oct 13, 2020
In the earlier part of 2020 many events in the art world such as exhibitions and fairs were forced to be postponed or canceled due to the restrictions on social distancing while Covid-19 was spreading. The realities of running an art gallery business faced an even greater challenge and pushed the industry further with digital transformation. Some market participants were better positioned than others in terms of their digital presence, but overall the limitations on holding events caused a considerable down turn in the number of transactions on the global art market.
Kiki Sterling Gallery is one of those market participants that felt the shift coming and reacted with new approaches to continue and develop the business during these challenging times. What began as a business class project in 2018 morphed into an online gallery showcasing a variety of artworks. From the beginning the gallery was positioned as an inclusive, racially and diverse representation of artists and their creations. Based in Montreal, the gallery works not only with Canadian artists in Quebec and Ontario, but also the US, and as far away as Spain, the U.K and Brazil. Some of the first artists were artist/painters Andy Habib ( QC, Canada ), Antonio Souza ( Brazil ) Michel Auclair-Langlois (QC, Canada) and marine photographer, Craig McAllister (USA).
Anny Kazanjian who owns and runs the gallery has done a superb job with adjusting the business according to the current circumstances, "The reality of art during the time of Covid-19 is quite strange and unique, a paradigm shift really. Art fairs which make up a sizable portion of our business were canceled because they are the least amenable to the reality of social distancing; we were booked at Artexpo NY and Red Dot Miami. Fortunately, as a business we were already online so we didn’t have to shift much.
We’re spending much more of our time and energy into managing our digital channels on-boarding new and emerging artists and uploading more art. Inasmuch as an on-line presence is instrumental in promoting and creating awareness for our gallery, there’s something to be said for experiencing art in person. The ability to view artwork up close and experience the atmosphere art creates is highly personal.
Another key diver of our business is exhibits/pop-ups. Therefore, we’ve had to re-think our modus operandi for the rest of the year and are now creating new event ideas that keep our staff and guests very safe while enjoying art."
"We’re spending much more of our time and energy into managing our digital channels"
Kiki Sterling Gallery is a champion of openness and diversity and the gallery’s endeavour is building successful artist relationships with trust, knowledge and cooperation, especially since some of the artists are overseas. "Our goal is to create a gallery where each artist has their own “lane,” and so we choose art and therefore artists, who specialize in a distinct style, voice and feel that underlines their visual signature."
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across all economies across the board. Every sector, with few exceptions, has been impacted including art sales. With the cancellation of art fairs and exhibits, there’s much to lament, however on-line presence and sales have proven to be quite interesting. I suspect there’s a certain level of downturn everywhere but, truly only time will tell. The interesting thing is that art has now become another investment opportunity and as financial markets fluctuate, art is a way to diversify your portfolio. However, it is a long term investment and can be part of a well-rounded investment portfolio.
"Will art buyers and collectors continue to make purchases? I say yes!"
Recently one of the gallery's collectors requested a unique private commission. The clients are of Armenian descent, residing in Canada. Their dining room has a decidedly medieval décor and they requested a period piece depicting Armenian kings and warriors in battle.
After much research by the artist, Andy Habib, King Levon I of the Armenian Cilicia period served as the inspiration. Photos or illustrations of this particular time frame are extremely rare, however Andy Habib studied materials of that time looking for the specifics of armor during King Levon’s reign, historical Armenian clothing from the high middle ages and details befitting a king, along with in-depth research of castles and fortifications in ancient Armenia.
Following exhaustive research Habib created the scene depicting King Levon I leading his knights into war. Given that the current Armenian flag did not exist at that time, Habib honored the commission by draping the white stallion in the current Armenian flag of red, blue and orange, and added the symbol of the Armenian cross, called a khatchkar to the king’s gauntlet.
For 2021 the gallery is developing a few ideas to create awareness and drive sales. "Most importantly we will continue to be a very user-friendly and transparent acquisition experience with clear, on-line pricing and purchasing, with easy worldwide shipping. Shipping within a 50 mile radius of Montreal is free. We’re looking forward to collaborating with interior designers, architects and stagers with commercial, hospitality and residential projects. We’re also looking at loaning original artwork for home-staging, filming, editorials and photo-shoots."