What to expect from the art world in 2024

Fri Dec 29 2023

In 2023 the art world saw its fair share of exciting developments but also scandals, controversies, and slowdowns in the art market. Regardless of this, as always, art has continued to thrive. This article explores some of the aspects that will most likely permeate the art world in 2024. Without aiming to be comprehensive, this list showcases a selection that involves the varied players of the art world ranging from the art market and museum sector to scientists, governments, and artists.


Restitution controversies on the rise

While restitution controversies are not at all new, recently there has been increasing public pressure to resolve long-lasting disputes with government authorities embarking on new negotiations. As proof of this, in 2023, the dispute for the Parthenon or Elgin marbles made headlines once again with The Vatican agreeing to return three pieces to Greece and with British and Greek authorities conducting secret meetings to deal with the centuries-long dilemma of deciding if the marbles belong at the British Museum or Athens. However, while initially there seemed to be some advances, currently, the conversations between Greece and Great Britain have come to a halt. At the same time, the effort of the Nigerian government to return a collection of looted artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes, a good number of which are also housed in the British Museum, is still ongoing. All these negotiations have acquired notoriety due to the theft scandal involving an in-house employee in which the British Museum was recently involved and which saw the argument that the pieces were safer within their walls than elsewhere fell to the ground, explained this article published in The Art Newspaper. Amidst this complex scenery, 2024 will surely see the rekindling of an algid debate in Great Britain, a country that has resisted the restitution wave that many other countries, such as France, Germany, and Belgium, have adopted and which are detailed in this article.  

Global increase in museum fees will continue: are museums really for all?

This year museum entrance fees in the US spiked reaching 32 USD for The Art Institute of Chicago and 30 USD for the Whitney, the MET, the Guggenheim, and MOMA, according to this Hyperallergic article. Likewise, an increase in entrance fees has also been announced for some of the most famous museums in Europe such as The Louvre which, starting in January, will raise its basic ticket price to €22 from €17 in the latest sign that visitors may face higher costs ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, reported this New York Times article. This has also been seen elsewhere with the Vatican Museums also announcing it will elevate the price of its ordinary full-entry tickets to €20, up from €17, with effect from January 2024.


The generalized increase in entrance fees relates to the current economic climate, budget cuts, added operating costs, and decrease in memberships but also stems from the fact that visitors, even if in lesser numbers, have continued to visit the museums that have activated these measures, especially tourists. At the same time, an ongoing trend that will most likely continue to be seen in 2024 is the segmentation of rates that offer reduced or free entrance for locals. While these policies favor the role of the museum as a community activator, for the rest of us, long last were the days when entrance fees were optional in the MET. In short, nowadays cultural tourism in some cities in the US and Europe is no longer available for all pockets, as if one wants to visit the main sights a substantial budget is required. For instance, if residing outside of NYC, to visit The Whitney, The Guggenheim and The MET one needs 90 USD! While this scenery makes us question if museums are really for all, luckily there are still some museums that offer free admission, with some of the major insitutions offering monthly free entrance days.


2024 main cultural events: art fairs, Venice Biennale and the Olympics

In 2023, the number of art fairs worldwide reached 377, according to the Art Market 2023 report put together by the economist Clare McAndrew. Remarkably, even if the number has climbed steadily since a drop to 133 in 2020 it has not reached the whooping figure of 408 in 2019. Taking into account this scenery, 2024 will surely continue to see most of the fairs comeback as this in-person model has proven successful and has not been supplanted by the digital art market. Some of the fairs that will mark the first months of 2024 are Zona Maco (Mexico City, Feb. 7-11); Art Dubai (Dubai, March 1-3); ARCO Madrid (Madrid, March 6-10); Art Paris (Paris, Apr. 3- 6); Art Basel, Switzerland (Basel, June 13-16); and The Armory Show (New York, Sept. 5-8).

Next to the commercial side of things, 2024 will see a new edition of the Venice Biennale (Apr. 20 – Nov. 24, pre-opening Apr. 17-19), curated by Adriano Pedrosa, the first Latin American selected for this position. As referred to by Art Review, the 2024 edition will focus on outsiders and foreigners highlighting artists who have traveled at various points in their careers. While there will be familiar faces and staple pavilions some regions like the Republic of Benin will debut their first pavilions. While disparate, 2024 will also be marked by the Summer Olympics, this time staged in Paris. Next to its sports programming the city will be lightened up by exhibitions and cultural events that will contribute to strengthening Paris and France as a well-respected cultural destination. For instance, Paris Musées had already planned a specific tour or an exhibition for each of its establishments revolving around the theme of "Art and Sport”, reported this Le Monde article, and, certainly, many more exhibitions and art events will soon be announced.

The connection between art and health will take a major role

For years, the connection between art and wellness has been explored through varied disciplines including psychology, where it is used as therapeutic for patients suffering from conditions such as anxiety or Alzheimer’s; and neuroscience, a field that focuses on showing the effect art has on our brains. Recently, the most ambitious scientific study on this subject has been announced for next year. It is an interdisciplinary project spearheaded by the Jameel Arts & Health Lab and the World Health Organization (WHO) that involves fifty researchers from universities including University College London, Harvard University, University of Malawi, and Hong Kong University, according to an article in The Art Newspaper. The series of articles resulting from this project will be published in the Lancet Medical Journal and will gather the first comprehensive review of evidence for the relationship between the arts and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Therefore, it will include an analysis of population-wide studies showing what prevents people from accessing the arts, evidence for how engaging with the arts can influence behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, and an evaluation of how art therapies can help people manage NCDs.

Certainly, this effort forms part of the more holistic approach patient management is increasingly taking. In some regions, such as Quebec, there is even a small-scale program, launched in 2018, where doctors can prescribe free visits to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) as part of a research project that tracks the effect that visits have on patients. Without a doubt, 2024 will start to see some of the results of these initiatives that demonstrate what is already common knowledge but that requires to be systematized to have more impact.

Artists gain terrain as influential figures in the art market

Surprisingly, the top ten positions in the 2023 Art Review annual Power 100 list are artists and not gallerists or collectors as it was regularly seen years before. “What’s apparent is that an artist is now more than just a maker of images and objects, being also a central node in a network of people and a galvanizing force for a movement or a community,” stated an Art Review analysis of this year’s list. Next to the role of artists as activists or opinion leaders their rising status also relates to the move many creatives are taking to manage their work aside from galleries and dealers which have granted them more reach and independence. As proof of this, emerging artists are increasingly recurring to social media, which even if not translating into instant sales, grants them exposure. At the same time, even established figures with long-lasting relationships with galleries, such as Peter Doig who worked with Michael Werner Gallery for 23 years, decided to work independently as revealed in this feature article from The Art Newspaper.

Importantly, while some artists are working entirely on their own, others have turned to the alternative model offered by agencies like UTA Fine Arts, WME (part of Frieze’s parent company, Endeavor), and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) that sign fine artists managing their PR and overseeing the commercial licensing of the artists’ work or other types of cross-sector collaborations which have taken an important chunk in terms of revenue. Without a doubt, while galleries are still influential and at the forefront of the most important market transactions next to auction houses, new market options will continue to develop and flourish in 2024.

Social media artists-influencers: a challenging crossover 

In 2023, there was a heated controversy between art critic Ben Davis and TikTok artist Devon Rodriguez @devonrodriguezart, who since 2020 has drawn and painted realistic portraits of strangers while riding the NYC subway garnering millions of followers and a sudden rise to fame. However, when the artist staged his very first solo exhibition titled Underground at UTA Artist Space, in Chelsea, everything did not go down smoothly as Davis’s review for artnet News was strongly rejected by Rodriguez and his followers. This reveals what happens when the world of TikTok fame, based on the intense reactions the content triggers in the audience in this case through skillful storytelling paired with hyperrealist artworks produced at a frantic pace, and art criticism, based on the well-informed but subjective opinions of an art expert, collide. Bottom line, rather than labeling Rodriguez’s work, what was revealed through this controversy is the disparate set of values each sector abides by and which until now seem to, at least in some instances, have a conflictive relationship. However, everything is not black and white as, for example, UTA Fine artists also represent mainstream artists who have exhibited in their spaces. Probably, in 2024 we will continue to see this sort of crossover sometimes colored with debate and others with acclaim.

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