The Art Angle Podcast: Futurist Doug Stephens on What Art Dealers Can Learn From the Retail Revolution

On this week's episode, the man known as the Retail Prophet offers insights to galleries on where commerce is headed in our tumultuous times.

Canadian futurist Doug Stephens. Artwork courtesy of Artnet News.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.



In a July 2020 article published in the Business of Fashion, Canadian futurist Doug Stephens opined on the likely realities of the commercial ecosystem that will emerge from the Great Shutdown. He predicted an economy in which behemoths like Amazon will reign supreme even in sectors like education and banking; robotics and other high-functioning technologies wielded by the largest corporations will put many smaller players at perhaps the starkest disadvantage in history; and ultimately “only the fittest will survive.”

It’s a disturbing vision, but one that Stephens unfurled in no small part to awaken entrepreneurs to the urgent need for change in the present moment, regardless of their sales niche—and that includes art dealers. While many artists and gallerists prefer to think of their work as a unique public service that enriches the world with insights and beauty, the buying and selling of art also remains a business (and a big one at that). This cold, hard accounting means that, from what to do with their brick-and-mortar outposts to how to leverage their digital platforms, the art industry faces some of the same challenges as general retailers in our crisis-riddled era.

The goods news is that it also means that dealers might be able to take a few cues from other sellers about how to evolve. And who better to consult in this scenario than the Retail Prophet?

On this week’s episode of the Art Angle, Doug Stephens joins Andrew Goldstein for a frank and fascinating conversation about what art galleries can learn from leaders in retail around the world, how the traditional relationship between media and sales has inverted courtesy of the internet, and why the changes dealers implement during the shutdown will determine their odds of surviving and thriving long after it ends.

Listen above and subscribe to the Art Angle on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. (Or catch up on past episodes here on Artnet News.)


Listen to Other Episodes:

The Art Angle Podcast: The Secret Art History of Burning Man

The Art Angle Podcast: How Rupert Murdoch’s Son Became Art Basel’s Savior

The Art Angle Podcast: How the Wellness Revolution Just Arrived in the Art World

The Art Angle Podcast: Art Critic Jerry Saltz on Why It’s Time to Build a New Art World

The Art Angle Podcast: How Black Women Are Leading a Grassroots Art Revolution

The Art Angle Podcast: How the Heck Did Auction Houses Just Sell Almost a Billion Dollars in Art During a Global Pandemic?

The Art Angle Podcast: How Hank Willis Thomas Is Making Politics an Art Form

The Art Angle Podcast: The Unsettling Truth Behind What Columbus Monuments Really Stand For

The Art Angle Podcast: Meet the Smithsonian Curator Who Turns Protesters’ T-Shirts Into National Treasures

The Art Angle Podcast: Why Artist Trevor Paglen Is Doing Everything He Can to Warn Humanity About Artificial Intelligence

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.