Culture shock

Culture shock: the impact of COVID on the creative sectors

Cultural events and venues have been hit hard by the fallout from COVID-19 this year. The answer for many institutions has been to turn to digital technology. The world of art and fashion in particular has experienced major technological and ethical transformations. In this special culture review, we take a look at some of the most significant developments in the world of culture over the past 12 months.

A special year for culture

Almost all European theatres, museums and galleries have been forced to close, except for Madrid. Whether in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Athens or Amsterdam, most cultural venues only opened to the public in the spring – even then strict health and safety measures remained in place.

Faced with a creative sector in crisis, the European Parliament has agreed to significantly increase its budget for culture – 2.4 billion euros over the next 7 years. It was a sum that almost doubled the previous amount donated. This additional support was a clear recognition of the important role that the European creative sector plays, both economically and socially.

A more sustainable fashion

For the fashion world, the pandemic has only accelerated changes already underway. Taxed as a polluting industry, especially during fashion weeks, the ready-to-wear and haute couture sector was forced to reinvent itself, in particular by offering virtual fashion shows in the first half of the year.

In September, Fashion Weeks in Milan, New York and Paris only resumed for a limited time, while shows this winter risk being compromised due to a new wave of Covid.

A good year for art

A booming sector is the art market with auction houses breaking new records. A small painting by Renaissance master Botticelli fetched the tidy sum of 80 million euros at the start of the year while Basquiat became the most expensive contemporary artist in the world.

The big trend this year has been the explosion of Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, and the rise of Blockchain-backed digital art. These too are breaking records at auction. The most famous of these is Beeple, who is now in the top three of the most valuable living artists.

art comes home

Another big development this year has been the return of looted art and artefacts to their country of origin. The UK started things off by returning a bronze medal to Nigeria in the fall. Germany plans to do the same next year, and France, in the presence of President Macron, returned to Benin 26 ancient treasures looted from Africa more than a hundred years ago.