The on-site gallery remains important, but expansion into virtual space is imperative. This is the conclusion of a study commissioned by the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Enterprises last fall. A total of 107 Berlin art market players took part in the survey conducted by the market research company Goldmedia, and 25 international experts were also interviewed.

Digital policy, regulation, artificial intelligence: the briefing on digitization

It may sound disrespectful, said Werner Tammen, Chairman of the Berlin Galleries Association when presenting the study, but “without Corona, this drive would not have led to digital expansion”. Gallery owner Thomas Schulte adds that the pandemic has also strengthened communication among each other and dialogue with politicians.

The fact that the latter has borne fruit is not only proven by the first funding programs, but also – and this is the most remarkable finding from the study – by a rethinking in politics.

Michael Biel made an almost flaming plea. The Senate no longer regards galleries as a soft location factor. “You are a key factor!” said the State Secretary. The cultural and creative industries are not only an important settlement factor for companies, they also contribute to the attractiveness of the Berlin brand for employees or start-ups and these are particularly attracted by the flourishing gallery scene. Competent media specialists, however, are rare and you are “suddenly in competition with startups from the venture capital scene,” gallery owner Johann König is quoted in the study as saying.

The big players in this market are competitive – another result of the survey. The majority of the approximately 345 Berlin galleries, however, play in the middle. 43 percent put their sales for 2019 between 50,000 and 500,000 euros, only eight percent were above the million mark.

This is also reflected in the use of digital formats. Although almost everyone uses e-mails, their own websites and social media, the annual investment for digital activities was less than 5000 euros for two-thirds of the galleries, and the owners are primarily responsible.

Since almost 40 percent of them have been in the business for more than 20 years, they should not be among the digital natives. But the art market has to adjust to these and the millennials in particular, because this clientele obtains information on the Internet, expects online shops or click-and-buy offers.

The development potential is identified in hybrid business models, with video guides, online viewing rooms, virtual or augmented reality technologies and platforms such as artsy or artnet. Search engine marketing or networking via third-party providers offer a great “treasure” for galleries and their global presence in terms of customer data, says Kerstin Gold, external consultant for the study.

According to the art market expert, the processing of digitization and e-commerce in the art market is mainly carried out via the USA: “We have to provide the appropriate infrastructure so that it can settle here.” The study offers guidelines for this – for galleries as well as politics.