What impact has lockdown and the crisis in general had on your business?
The Gallery Brugier-Rigail’s activity has been impacted in different ways by this unprecedented health crisis. On the one hand, we have been faced with the cancellation of four fairs - which are important for our image both nationally and internationally: Art Central Hong Kong, Art Busan in South Korea, Art Up Lille and Urban Art Fair in Paris.
On the other hand, we had made the artistic choice to highlight, during this first part of the year, the unique and fantastic world of Fabien Verschaere. Two exhibitions were already underway, one at the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré in Tours and the second at Les Dominicaines art centre in Pont L'Évêque. As for the one planned at the gallery in March and April, it had to be cancelled, pure and simple.
And of course, regardless of these events, the mere fact that the gallery was closed to the public for almost two months had an impact on our turnover.
What steps have you taken in response to the situation? Which have been the most or the least effective?
Like many in the profession, we were caught somewhat off guard by the announcements of the immediate closure of our establishment. However, we have tried to be responsive in order to bounce back as quickly as possible by developing various strategies.
We have also boosted our communication, intensifying posts on social media such as Instagram and Facebook, as well as newsletters in order to keep our collectors and gallery regulars informed as much as possible. Meanwhile we have also been focusing more on our activity in general and the work of our artists. Our team has worked to remain available to our clients and to anyone interested in the gallery's works.
Overall, the major obstacle we have encountered has been the lack of physical access to the artworks. However, our important database of images, planned precisely for this kind of eventuality, allowed us to partially compensate and respond to requests for information in the best way possible.
The most inefficient way of doing this, in the end, was to participate in online auctions. We don’t often work with this type of sale, yet the closure of the gallery allowed us to try it out. The results were very disappointing.
What crisis talks have you held with your employees, artists and partners?
‘It's going to be hard... but we're going to make it!’ Joking aside, we've always tried to remain positive - despite a few small moments of uncertainty of course.
Both our team and our artists have remained active, all of us being well aware that it was only by combining all our efforts that we were going to get through it.
How did you adapt your communication strategy?
As previously noted, we have intensified our presence on social media and the frequency of our newsletters, no longer focusing exclusively on the exhibition of the moment but expanding to include all our artists and their work over the years. This has also made the interaction more dynamic.
Additionally, away from the internet, we have suspended our advertising partnerships in print media.
Gallery Brugier-Rigail, Paris
What are you doing to support your artists at this time?
We continue to invest in their work and pursue our commitments. Our previously undertaken projects are not cancelled, but postponed.
We’ve experienced a complete overhaul of the programming of our artists' exhibitions, whether at the gallery or off-site installations.
What is your initial assessment of your gallery after these first weeks of lockdown, both from an economic and personal point of view?
In spite of the gallery's closure, the work has continued, but in a different way. Our forecasts have been revised downwards and our turnover has decreased compared to the same period last year, however the number of transactions has remained stable.
The gallery team remained committed and united, we knew this before the lockdown but it proved to be even more true during this complex period.
What have you planned for the coming weeks to support your operations?
During lockdown, we set up virtual exhibitions, which we will continue to do in the future. As for the programming of the gallery, we have been forced to completely rethink it.
Laurent Rigail and Eric Brugier - Fabien Verschaere, « La géographie du totem », view of the exhibition CCCOD, Tours, France, december 2019 © Photo F. FERNANDEZ - CCC OD, Tours
What advice or messages would you like to offer your peers?
Whether it’s to compensate for this kind of contingency or even in a general way, these days it seems essential to reinforce your presence on social media and on online sales sites such as Artsper, where it is necessary to provide as much detail as possible about the works.
All of these measures allow potential buyers to visualise themselves with the works and make the step of buying easier, be it online or in person.