Survey Results: Impact of New Coronavirus Pneumonia Outbreak on the Chinese Art World

The survey report summarizes and analyzes how the China’s art circle have been affected by the new coronavirus epidemic, including the extent of income decline, the extent of visitor number decline, and the main challenges they face; also, their own countermeasures and appeals. The aim is to reflect the real data of the Chinese art world during the pneumonia outbreak, to help art professionals better understand current situation, and to find ways to overcome difficulties.

From February 5 to 11, 2020, the survey has received a total of 514 responses from professionals in the visual arts domain. 98% of the respondents come from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

This survey report was jointly written by Shana Wu, director at Art Market Research Center and executive editor at Art Market Journal, Tina Xu, Chinese editor at Art Market Journal, Jiali Duan and Tingting Chen, researchers at Art Market Monitor of Artron.


  • 73.8% of the respondents think that, if the situation stays unchanged, their art business can only continue to survive for no more than 3 months with the reserve fund they currently hold in hand.

  • At present, the new coronavirus epidemic (4.3) has become the number one negative factor that exerts strong impact on the Chinese art world; others include the slowing economic growth (3.8), Sino-US trade war (3.0), and Hong Kong protests (2.3).

  • 55.2% of the respondents estimate that their 2020 H1 income will decrease by over 30% comparing with last year.

  • 81.5% of the art organizations have shut down their business or spaces in order to avoid gathering and prevent the virus from spreading

  • The survey also shows the art professionals’ strong demand for provisional tax abatement (70%) and rent vouchers / utility rate subsidies (67.5%).

1. Who Are the Respondents?

1.1 Who have Participated in the survey?

The respondents areartist (8.9%), curator (17.1%), art organization founder or investor (13.8%), art organization executive (15.8), art organization staff (22.0%), art collector (3.3%), art professor and scholar (12.1%) and others (7.0%), such as independent curator, art journalist, etc.

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1.2 What sub-area in the art world are they involved with?

The respondents’ affiliated sub-areas are (from highest to lowest): curatorial and exhibition (16.3%), museum and art center (16.0%), art education and research (12.6%), gallery (10.9%), independent worker (10.7%), art media and communications (7.2%), art derivatives (3.9%), art e-commerce (2.9%), collector and art lover (2.5%), auction house (2.3%), art fair (1.6%). Those which take less than 1.5% are defined as others, which include art foundation, art finance, appraisal and valuation, and artist studio, etc.

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 1.3 What’s the size of their affiliated organizations?

Organizations with 1-10 staffs take the biggest ratio of 39.1%, most which are galleries or freelancers; art organizations with over 50 staffs rank 2nd, taking 32.3% of the total.

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 1.4 Where do they come from?

The respondents come from East China (46.9%), North China (26.7%), South China (11.5%), Southwest China (4.5%), Central China (4.1%), Northeast China (2.7%), Overseas (2.0%) and Northwest China (1.8%). Among them, Shanghai (23.9%) and Beijing (22.6%) are the two cities where a large proportion of art professionals dwell. 

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2. Influence Survey and Loss Estimation

 2.1 According to local policy, when do they return to work?

46.9% of the respondents still haven’t decided when to return to work when the survey is taking place. Others return to work before February 3rd (4.1%), between 3rd to 10rd (34.8%), or between 10th to the end of February (10.7%) respectively. Only 3.5% never shutdown their business during the epidemic. 

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 2.2 To what extent does the following factors affect the Chinese art scene respectively?

Chinese art circle is facing four major negative external factors at present. Among them, respondents believe that the new coronavirus epidemic exert the most significant impact. On a scale of 0-5, they are: new coronavirus epidemic (4.3), slowing economic growth (3.8), Sino-US trade war (3.0), and Hong Kong protests (2.3).

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 2.3 How does the epidemic influence different aspects of the art business?

The respondents believe that sales (47.9%) was affected the most in art business; Operation (41.6%); Production (35.6%); Finance (33.9%); And human resource (27.8%).

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 2.4 What are the major challenges that they face?

On the one hand, suspension of exhibition and other public events is the severest challenge faced by the art world - on a scale of 0-5, this problem has received a rate of 4.2, ranking first among all options; The second is decline of income and shortage of cash flow (3.7); High operational costs (3.5) ranks 3rd, making it another major issue that force the respondents into difficult situation. 

On the other hand, reduction of loans (2.4) and decline of sponsorships and donations (2.8) are seen as relatively mild problems. 

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 2.5 To what extent are their 2020 H1 income influenced by the epidemic?

24.1% of the respondents estimate that their 2020 H1 income will drop by over 50%; 31.1% estimate a 30-50% decline; 9.3% of them believe that their income is going to fall by less than 30%; Only 5.6% think that their income will maintain the same level comparing to 2019; And 29.8% still can’t give a solid answer to this question.

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 2.6 To what extent are their 2020 H1 visitor number influenced by the epidemic?

The art world is highly dependent on offline exhibitions, social events and inter-personal communications. According to the respondents’ prediction, 32.6% of the exhibition spaces will witness a decline of visitor number by over 50%; 23.5% of them drop by 30-50%; 11.7% of the respondents predict a drop of less than 30%; And 28.4% thinks it is hard to predict at current stage. 

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3. Prospect on Recovery

 3.1 Are they optimistic or pessimistic toward the prevention and control of the epidemic in the near future?

Most of the respondents hold relatively optimistic or neutral attitude toward the result of prevention and control actions - these two groups together account for 69.5% of the total. Geographically, people from the East and Northeast China are the most optimistic, while Overseas the most pessimistic. As the center of the outbreak, Hubei is still settled in gloom - Among all provinces, those whose come from here rate lowest for this question.  

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 3.2 How long does it take for their business and the whole art world to resume normal state after the epidemic ends?

The recovery of individual work and business operation takes shorter time - Most (73.7%) of the respondents believe that it can be managed within 3 months. However, the recovery of the whole art circle as an integrated system may be hysteretic - 50.9% think that it takes more than 3 months.

Among them, those who work in the art e-commerce field are the most pessimistic - 26.7% of them predict that the recovery takes over half a year; Following that, art derivatives (20.0%) and auction house (16.7%).

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 3.3 How long can their business continue to survive with the reserve fund they currently hold in hand?

If the situation stays unchanged, 33.3% of the respondents think that their business can survive for no more than 1 month; 40.5% opt for 1-3 months; Only 26.2% believe they can hold on for over 3 months. 

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4. Countermeasures and Appeals

 4.1 What countermeasures do they take?

81.5% of the art organizations have shut down their business or spaces in order to avoid gathering and prevent the virus from spreading; 55.3% of the respondents have disinfected their workplace and take temperature of visitors; 45.5% transfer offline business activities and contents to online.

Besides that, 21.8% of them have created arts themed the epidemic, to discuss ethical issues in regard to the disaster, or extend condolence to those whose lives have been taken away by the disease; 21.2% have donated money or supplies to those who are in need; 20.8% of the respondents offer free products or services to the public during the outbreak; 9.9% of them have organized or participated in non-profit art auctions / sales to show support.

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 4.2 For the art circle, what issues should be addressed right after the epidemic?

First, the respondents believe that it is necessary to rebuild confidence in the art world, attract collectors to return to the market, and reshape the perception of the Chinese art scene in the global context.

Second, search for new ways to adapt traditional art practices, contents, and business to online platforms, such as reinventing online art museums.

Third, promote stronger partnerships among art professionals and organizations so that they can jointly improve risks resistance capability.

Finally, since a large proportion of the art organization are start-ups with less than 10 staffs, it is important to improve art-secured lending and donation policies so as to relieve their cash flow tension.

4.3 What solution from the authority do they expect?

The respondents expect the government to introduce more active policies on supporting the art circle through the difficult times. The top three appeals are: provisional tax abatement - 70.0% of the respondents opt for this; 67.5% suggest rent vouchers / utility rate subsidies; 51.6% of the respondents called for social insurance premium reduction.

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Other proposals include the set-up of special relief fund for art professionals and organizations, and more open art-secured lending policy. In addition, the respondents hope the government can offer stronger support and endorsement to artists who join philanthropic works during the epidemic.