After the strange collective experience that was 2020, many (or dare I say most) of us are warily wondering what exactly this new year will bring. History tells us that in times of turbulence, people often seek out alternative sources of wisdom and knowledge, including, not so uncommonly, the teachings and practices of the occult.
Considering that art-world interest in spirituality and mysticism was flourishing before the pandemic totally transformed our daily lives, it’s fair to say that we’ve entered a renaissance age for all things witchy.
With this in mind, along with a few burning questions about the art world’s future, we reached out to Sarah Potter, a tarot card reader, medium, and self-described witch, to see if she could help.
Potter, who spent years working in New York galleries, has her own art-world ties: she’s curated several highly memorable booths at the Spring/Break Art Fair, including “Season of the Witch” (2017) and “Spiritual Art Advisory” (2019) with artist Caroline Larsen.
Could the tarot divine predictions for the art world in 2021? Whether you’re a true believer or don’t believe a wink of it, these startlingly specific predictions are sure to surprise you.
How should artists best navigate the changing art world in 2021?
The first card I chose is Eight of Wands, which is good news for artists. Wands are our passions and inspirations. Eight of Wands means momentum; everyone kind of has this potential to really move forward with speed and blaze their own trail. What I’m seeing is that we’re in this moment when artists can really be successful on their own terms—and on their own as well.
We also have a Strength card, which tells me that artists don’t need to force it, but to just go with the energy. The Strength card reminds us that true strength comes from vulnerability and that’s what collectors are looking for—artists who are being open in their work. The King of Pentacles follows, which means that the money’s there. Collectors are buying. So just put your work out there. Collecting is happening. There’s money there for you. Just go with it.
What about collectors? How are they going to be navigating 2021?
Well, this is very interesting. I pulled the Five of Pentacles and it appeared in reverse, which shows me people are concerned about finances. Then we have the Ten of Wands—this is burnout. Which, of course, these both make sense. People are resilient but we’ve been quarantining for almost a year and that doesn’t mean this gets easier so we have the financial pressures as well as the emotional fatigue.
As for collecting, this means people are being more mindful of their purchases, maybe with more intention. But don’t worry—they’re still buying. And then the Knight of Wands appeared as well, which is saying, don’t be surprised by more international sales. This is a card of travel so expect to be shipping more work than usual overseas.
Do you see any patterns in collecting emerging for 2021?
The first card we have is the Hierophant. This card was originally the Pope, but in the more modern sense, it’s about being community-minded. In this sense I think people will be coming out of this majorly transformative year of 2020 and people will be seeing how artists have used their work, not to transcend, but maybe to cope and to create a sense of community in this time. Collectors are going to want to buy work that marks this moment in history in a specific way.
We also have the Seven of Cups, which shows me that collectors are wanting to go out of their comfort zone a little bit and are open to exploring other options. If you’re working as an advisor or a gallerist, this is a great time to work with the collectors to expand their collection in unexpected ways.
And last, we have the Ace of Pentacles, which is showing me, to be honest, that people are not buying as much. But it’s not so much the price tag. It’s how it makes them feel.
How about galleries—how will they fare this year? And in what ways will they adapt to the ongoing crisis that we’ve been experiencing?
The cards are telling me that first, we have to acknowledge what’s happening in the present before we can talk about the future. I’m seeing the Five of Cups and the Five of Coins. This means that galleries are sad and they’re worried about being broke, which it’s good, to acknowledge how you’re feeling. No matter what the financial situation, things can feel dire and uncertain!
But, don’t worry, because then we have the Ten of Coins followed by the Fool. The Ten of Coins means family and network and also indicates thinking long term. What we need to do is remember that there is a lot of support out there, so maybe we’ll see galleries networking more and coming together to do this. And we’ll see some funding coming in for galleries too. Help is coming. Whether it’s from grants or private institutions or the government, it’s coming.
Then the Fool reminds us to take chances. This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but even in a feeling of despair, the Fool reminds us to try something new. The mentality is why not? What is there to lose? Just give it a shot. Maybe that’s showing young, fresh artists or maybe it’s a show you wouldn’t expect.
Will art fairs happen this year? And what way will they happen?
The first card I pulled in the Empress. She is the mother of creation. What this says to me is that art fairs aren’t gone for good, but right now we’re in a time of creation and focused on artists’ studios. Artists are going to keep making and showing their works in interesting ways, but no, art fairs are not coming back just yet. That said, I also have the World card, which means internationally yes, more will be happening in terms of fairs, but not here in the U.S. in the near future.
What types of works are going to inspire bidding-battles at the auction houses?
We’re seeing a few different things. The first card I pulled in Death, which, to be quite literal, means that people are still collecting artists who have passed on to the next life. That focus on death is supported by the Queen of Pentacles. I’ve also pulled an Ace of Swords. The sword also has very hard lines, so that could mean design or work with almost a cold, hard geometry—these are going to be wanted. We also have the Ten of Cups, which is the family card. I consider this the fairytale card. So what this says to me is that if there is a work of art that’s very emblematic of an artist’s life story that is going to do very, very well.
What kinds of museum shows are people going to be gravitating towards?
The first card I chose is the Queen of Wands. She oversees and holds onto our creativity and our passion. So anything that is wildly, wildly creative, that makes us see in a really out-of-this-world way is good. Also, she is big and she is bold, so I see big, bold work, and lots and lots of bright colors. A really “wow, wow, wow” effect is what people want to see right now. And I also pulled this Nine of Swords, which is the card of our deepest anxieties. So what it feels like to me is anything that makes us feel good, can acknowledge and assuage our anxieties, is going to be perfect. When I saw the Queen of Wands I immediately thought of the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition at MoMA PS1 that’s opening this spring. The Queen of Wands is also the witch of the tarot and Saint Phalle was dealing with all of these themes of mysticism.
Which kind of art scandals can we see ahead for this year? We need to know.
That’s hilarious. Well, the first card I pulled is the Seven of Swords, which means liars! Deception is going to be unveiled. Next, I have the Magician, which means some power players, people who are making it happen, are going to be involved. On a smaller scale, we have Five of Swords, which is about conflicts—so we will find out more about people who were really hard to work with or bad bosses. Lastly, we have Temperance, which seems to say, we might have some drinking and drug scandals that will be revealed in the coming months.
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