Why fine art is leading the way in the home improvement boom

OPINION: Every crisis has its winners, and in this Covid world it would seem homewares, art galleries and even gardening and DIY stores (to name a few) can be placed in that category.
Despite the most recent alert level changes, the home improvement trend

With more and more people spending time at home, the desire to spruce up ones own surroundings

However, perhaps one of the biggest anomalies has been the positive impact that the pandemic has had on galleries and artists, resulting in a surge in online interest and post lockdown sales.

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Whilst the lack of overseas travel, low interest rates and those exploring alternative investments (particularly in the upper demographic) are all big drivers of this boom, the question remains, will this be an ongoing trend, or is it merely a coronavirus isolation fad?

The Covid home improvement frenzy​

Gallery owners that I have spoken to in the Parnell precinct have said its far too early to say whether this trend will continue through 2021.

But, they were all unanimous in their view that January sales were unusually high, despite reduced hours and people taking extended summer holidays.

Many are feeling bullish about the year ahead, with galleries reporting strong sales in the recent Auckland Art Fair, even though it had to close one day early due to alert level changes.

A big factor for the rise in home improvement has been tcocooning boomdue to the unprecedented cultural shift where curfews, social distancing and retreating to the comforts of home have become the norm.

Cheryl Adamson: I, for one, will be watching this space intently to see if this decade of the home (as some have coined it) continues.

Cocooning is where people search for safety and privacy, where our homes

get stuck into home projects (key motivators being boredom and having more time on their hands), sparking an unexpected renovation - with DIY stores, gardening and homeware shops all reaping the benefits.

And with borders still closed for the foreseeable future, people have more disposable income being shifted to home improvement in lieu of entertainment, travel or retail, where they are not only seeking items for functionality and comfort (i.e. home office chairs, desks etc), but have opted to invest in their own surroundings (art and dcor) to better appreciate the space that they live in.

These days it can actually be quicker to commission a piece of art, than it is to order a piece of furniture due to freight supply chain delays.

Art galleries adapting in a Covid world​

Like so many other industries, the massive disruption caused by Covid forced art galleries to think outside the box in order to maintain regular dialogue with customers and remain relevant.

Many did this by replicating the bricks and mortar experience on a digital platform.

This included offering customers online consultations, photoshopping a piece of art into various room settings and digitising art exhibitions.

Thankfully, many galleries were in the fortunate position of having a robust online presence before the pandemic hit, which served them exceptionally well over Covid as people had the time to browse online at home.

As the support local campaign resonated so strongly with Kiwis during the Auckland and nationwide lockdowns, the reasons galleries stand out are two-fold not only are you supporting your local gallery, but youre also supporting a local artist.

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Artist Yolunda Hickman discusses her upcoming showings at Auckland Art Fair and her favourite hangouts around the central city.

Therefore, the exchange value that is created is much more than the distant relationship inherent when buying from an international retail giant or bulk manufacturer. In my view, the galleries were at the forefront of this home improvement trend.

The rise of the DIY office​

Covid-19 accelerated changes that were already happening in the workplace such as flexible working hours, remote working options and shared workspaces.

Without a doubt one of the longer term impacts of the pandemic will be the fact more people will continue to work from home, even after lockdown orders lift.

Remote working has meant a rise in virtual meetings often taking place on platforms like ZOOM, Skype and Google Hangouts.

With these virtual meetings, people are creating an opportunity for their co-workers, managers and clients to have a window into their world. And because weve had to drastically change the way we work and live with our homes becoming our offices people are looking to create environments that reflect this.

As such, some people have invested in background dcor whether that be plants, art work, a few items on a shelf, flower arrangements to make their home office space look and appear as professional as possible.

Thats because people want to personalise, organise and revamp their homes so that they can create the right atmosphere to conduct business as usual, in what has been very unusual circumstances.

The pandemic has certainly been a catalyst for change, with shifting consumer habits creating a surge in DIY and home improvement.

Revamping living spaces (to adapt to office spaces and even classrooms) has proven to be both productive and engaging, filling the time void for many, whilst also providing a comforting sense of order during a time of much uncertainty.

With the New Zealand economy bouncing back faster than predicted and consumer confidence growing, the DIY / home improvement sector has certainly performed strongly. I, for one, will be watching this space intently to see if this decade of the home (as some have coined it) continues.

Cheryl Adamson is General Manager of the Parnell Business Association


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