This is going to be a decade of change for the art world. People, including curators, writers,
collectors and the public, have begun to question traditional ways of showing, viewing and
thinking about art. New ways of looking at artworks, both online and in real life, are on the way
and there will be no way back from this radical shift. Here are 5 significant trends that will
determine the future of the art world for the 2020s.
1. Museums will change their collections
The 2020s will see museums move towards a more inclusive presentation of art history, with a
focus on women artists, queer art and non-Western narratives. New York’s MoMA has just had
an explosive $450million rehang. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has embarked on an
ambitious renovation project of 10 galleries devoted to British art – to be opened in spring. And
Tate has committed to celebrating more women artists, with major solo exhibitions by Lynette
Yiadom-Boakye, Paula Rego, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maria Bartuszová, Haegue Yang and
Zanele Muholi throughout 2020/21.
2. Exhibitions will be more immersive, and Instagrammable
A friend’s recent Instagram story showed her lying on a bed of pastel-coloured sprinkles. ‘Where
are you?’, I asked. ‘The opening of the Museum of Ice Cream in New York’, she replied. ‘All the
influencers are here!’. This new museum includes a sprinkle swimming pool, slide and lots of
pink. Museums’ marketing strategies are cleverly taking into account selfie-opportunities inside
exhibits. We will be seeing a lot more of this. Looking ahead, the V&A Museum’s Alice in
Wonderland show will be all over social media. So, too, will the biggest-ever exhibition of Yayoi
Kusama’s mirrors, polka dots and pumpkins, which starts its tour in Berlin this autumn.
3. Museum money will be vetted
Museums rely on money from philanthropists and private donors. However, last year’s Sackler
scandal raised an important question: should museums refuse dirty money? Protests from
visitors, artists, trustees and activists have put pressure on cultural organisations to reject
philanthropy from unethical sources. The RSC recently cut ties with BP, and the Tate with
Sackler. Going forward, museums will need to take steps to scrutinise their donors more closely.
They will need to establish an authoritative set of guidelines to ensure ethical philanthropy. They
will also need to effect more rigorous vetting procedures.
4. Gallery apps will grow
Mobile phones are already accepted in the gallery. But the 2020s will see museums asking and
encouraging people to engage with them through dedicated apps. A new app, Smartify, allows
you to point your smartphone at an artwork and receive instant information on it. It’s already
partnered with the Louvre in Paris, New York’s Met Museum and London’s National Gallery.
More arts organisations will definitely follow. You can read my mixed thoughts on whether
gallery apps are a good idea here.
5. Virtual viewing and selling will increase
Art collectors will continue to spend time, and find artists they like, online. Over the next
decade, galleries will respond to this demand by increasing their online presence. You can expect
to see more online marketplaces, viewing rooms, virtual exhibitions and sales via social media. Dealers will have to engage in virtual selling to survive.
Ruth Millington is an art critic, writer and award-winning blogger.