Cross-promotion, or cross-marketing, is a strategy often seen in banking and media conglomerates. Typical cross-promotion marketing schemes seek to benefit two diverse businesses to drive profit and increase audience shares. What does this look like in the art market and broader art community?
In the arts, cross-promotion seeks to gain the attention of another sector’s audience. In doing so, markets are able to indirectly increase their profits through new client acquisition. Closely related to the development of cross-promotion is the rise of cross-collection and co-branding. While 19th and 20th century collectors placed a strong emphasis on period categorisation and separation between art genres, current trends show institutions and collectors are seeking to break down these divisions.
Looking to diversify portfolios following the 2008 market crash, cross-collecting began to grow not only in buying habits, but also in the development of cross-sector art fairs and blended exhibitions. In 2012, Contemporary art fair Frieze London opened a sister fair, Frieze Masters, selling everything from “the ancient era and Old Masters to the late 20th century”. Masterpiece, launched in 2010, was created to specifically appeal to cross-collectors. Through the variety of galleries they accept, to the absence of zoning in the layout of the fair, Masterpiece seeks to appeal to collectors seeking to “juxtapose the old with the new”. Co-branding, on the other hand, pairs popular brands with high price tags, such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, with artists to create limited editions. Co-branding showcases the potential success that two sectors with similar aims and consumer groups can find together.
WHICH MARKETS ARE SEEING THE BIGGEST IMPACT?
While there are a number of cross-promotional and co-exhibition examples in the market today, the greatest growth is between the Old Masters and Contemporary sectors.
To many, the Old Masters market is the pinnacle of art collection; the ability to add even one famous name from the art historical canon to your portfolio is a spectacular feat. For others, the market is difficult to get into, overly traditional, and requires a level of academic understanding that some collectors find daunting. Spanning a history of over 500 years and including the additional nuance of differences between regional styles, there is the question of where a collector should start. New collectors are also faced with unique restraints on the market, such as a limited market supply, museums as major competitors, and questions surrounding authenticity and authorship. Although the market is not the most profitable outside of the upper echelons of the canon, the Old Masters market has remained relatively calm over the years. 2019 is the first documented global loss for the Old Masters following several years of stable growth.
For collectors of Contemporary art, there are almost infinite opportunities to enter the market. Artists explore unique materials, investigate and comment on social, cultural or political issues, and generally seek to break the mould. In order to navigate the market, many contemporary collectors turn to art advisors to assist them with identifying works of value or by promising new talent. Prices also fluctuate much more in the Contemporary sector, adding a certain level of risk to those seeking to enter the market for investment opportunities. When Damien Hirst took to the auction houses in 2008, immediately following the Lehmann Brother’s crash, he hit an auction average over $800,000. By 2010 his average auction prices had dropped below $150,000, and they never fully recovered despite Hirst remaining one of the most recognised names in Contemporary art today. These challenges in the Contemporary market can be a turn off for collectors looking for more stability and works which have proven the test of time and tastes.
SEEING CROSS-PROMOTION IN ACTION
From the Victoria Beckham fashion collaboration with the Sotheby’s Old Master’s department, to the annual Blenheim Art Foundation exhibiting Contemporary art within a classical setting, to the Contemporary exhibitions inside an old royal residence at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, cross-sector promotion has grown considerably within the last decade. Cross-marketing reaches further than just exhibition design. Following Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s filming of their music video Apeshit in the Louvre, the museum reported an increase of 25% in their 2018 visitor numbers. This again highlights an area of art marketing touched on previously: co-branding and influencer marketing. A similar example of this can be seen at the annual MET Gala, where influential celebrities bring a world-renowned museum into popular focus. Particularly relevant was the 2018 theme, Heavenly Bodies, which saw beautiful co-exhibitions of Contemporary fashion alongside Medieval art and record visitor numbers.
In 2019, two exhibitions intertwining Old Masters and Contemporary art launched in London, bringing gallery-focused co-exhibitions into the media spotlight. Visions of the Self, a collaboration between Kenwood House and mega-gallery Gagosian, saw the hanging of the UK’s most famous Rembrandt, Self Portrait with Two Circles, within a gallery surrounded by portraiture by big names of Contemporary art, such as Picasso, Freud, Koons, and Basquiat. Nearby at the Royal Academy, people lined up to see Life, Death, Rebirth, an exhibition designed to investigate the relationships between the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and Contemporary video artist Bill Viola. While both exhibitions received mixed reviews, Visions of the Self appeared the overall winner with both Gagosian and English Heritage looking for new opportunities of a similar nature. Research into the success of this collaboration is still on-going.
HOW CAN CROSS-PROMOTION HELP MARKET STABILISATION AND GROWTH?
Drawing on new audiences is vital for the continued growth of the art market. The 2008 economic crash is still fresh in the minds of art market professionals, especially following the global drop in auction sales of 19.8% from 2018. By building new client in-roads now, while the markets are relatively stable, dealers and other art institutions can better weather economic instability. Cross-promotional strategies allow for the targeting of brand-conscious consumers through emotional marketing engagement. Well-designed cross-promotion as a curatorial experience allows not only for the greater understanding of art as a whole, but also the introduction of new audiences who may otherwise have avoided an exhibition outside their tastes. Considering the historical trends of the market, and its preference for the segregation of sectors, the question becomes: will this inclination towards cross-promotional exhibitions and cross-collection continue?
Emily Smith is a gallery manager at Maximillian William, a London-based contemporary art gallery, where she manages international logistics, client relations, and exhibition design, among other projects. Her previous experience includes providing marketing strategy and project management to the Royal College of Surgeon’s Museum and Plowden and Smith, as well as assisting private artists with developing their brands. Dedicated to the arts, Emily received her BA in Art History from George Mason University with a focus in Classical and Renaissance period art. She later received an MSc in Early Modern History from the University of Edinburgh and has recently graduated with distinction from Sotheby’s Institute of Art with an MA in Art Business. Her dissertation analysed cross-promotional exhibitions between the Old Masters and Contemporary art sectors as part of a wider investigation into arts marketing. Emily is a member of the Arts Marketing Association.