How Artists Painted Around the Pandemic
Up and coming artists have often relied on local art festivals and street fairs to get exposure for their art. Lucky painters and muralists were able to show their work in small galleries and exhibitions, those who were struggling depended on traveling and transporting their art to festivals outside their local areas for more exposure. This all changed in March 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the majority of galleries were forced to close their doors because of lockdown regulations. Festivals and art shows were canceled, leaving thousands of artists without a sustainable platform to make money. According to Americans for the Arts, a non profit organization set to advance cultivation of the arts in America, by May 2020, the revenue loss had already reached 5.5 billion dollars, with more than 95% of artists citing a loss of income. It seemed the art world took a catastrophic blow that would forever change the way we view and buy art. But all was not lost, as many took this opportunity to find alternate ways of spreading their art for the world to see, despite working in a time where the entire world was in lockdown. Social media became a lifeline for artists, enabling them to show, collaborate on, and sell their work. This created a network of artists throughout the world, connecting in ways that seemed unimaginable before the pandemic. Melinda Wang, founder of MW Projects, an art advisory firm in New York City, describes her experience with internet creators, stating “Thanks to more online content from artists and galleries, I’ve discovered artists who I probably would not have come across in normal times by proactively seeking out artist talks, performances, exhibitions and initiatives that pique my interest.” (One Art Nation: Expert Answers to Common Questions from Art Collectors Jan 14, 2021, November 22, 2021, Serban Veres)
But it wasn’t just artists that worked to close the gap between the public and art. Museums utilized the internet to do virtual tours which allow people to “walk” the museum halls they probably would never have had the opportunity to visit. All of a sudden distance and economics were no longer a barrier to art exposure. MoMA, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, the Musée D’Orsay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Palace of Versailles in Paris all offered virtual tours. For many artists, Instagram and Facebook became online galleries for their work. With so many artists using social media, gallery owners were able to find new creators willing to network and collaborate, expanding artistic communities nationwide.
These times proved extraordinary in showcasing the talent and integrity of artists. Hundreds and hundreds of painters flocked cities all around the world where they painted the towns with colorful graffiti art. Many artists felt this was their way of giving back to the community and spreading positivity during these troubling times. Covid seemed to be inspiring certain artists, such as Norwegian artist Pobel, who gained inspiration from people wearing masks outside. This is where he derived the vision behind his mural The Lovers, describing it as a piece that conveys love and compassion. This piece is displayed on a main road in Bryne, Norway.
Other artists like Austin-Zucchini Fowler decided to pay homage to the thousands of healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic. His piece Healthcare Hero shows a winged nurse with boxing gloves posed in a fighting stance. This is displayed on the side of an abandoned building on Colfax Avenue. According to Fowler, this piece has “resonated with the health care community”, witnessing a few health care workers taking photos in front of the mural.
With so many painters and muralists using the pandemic as their muse, it’s impossible to think that Covid-19 put a halt to the arts indefinitely. The growing surge of social media artists provided much needed solace in a time where we couldn’t enjoy eating out or going to the theater. For many people, including myself, art is a way to escape the daily workload and stress that comes with working as a student, so it brings much hope to see that a quarantine is not enough to stop the creative flow of artists. Whether you’re scrolling through twitter or walking to work, you’ll likely find a cool painting reposted on your timeline, or an obscure mural painted on the side of a building. Stop for a moment and engage with the piece. It’s important to recognize how you feel and how it speaks to you, and consider giving the work the appreciation it deserves. Repost it to your story or spread the artist’s name to your friends and colleagues. Provide artists with the support that’s necessary, because in a world as dull as post-pandemic America, imagine how much worse it would have been if there were no painters, muralists, or video creators who grabbed our attention away from the depressing doldrums of working remotely.
Edited by Elodie Hollant