The art market has modernised significantly in recent years. Galleries, auction houses, and museums have responded to technological advances and a need to diversify staff and artists represented. Reports of lack of diversity, misogyny and unethical working conditions for interns and freelancers in the art world have lately hit the headlines, propelling increased awareness and accountability in a sector that was seen to be behind the times.
This drive becomes increasingly important as the sector also moves towards targeting younger collectors. Galleries often go through ebbs and flows when their collector base is ageing or has reached purchasing capacity. Still, there has been an overall shift as galleries and auction houses have become aware of the impact of social media and the internet on young collectors and the purchasing power they possess. COVID-19 heightened the importance of developing online channels, which in turn fueled sales to younger collectors, who want to be able to purchase artwork at the click of a button.
Huffington Post reports that younger collectors also collect differently:
According to a US Trust survey, HNWIs under 50 years old are more likely to view art as an investment, while those over 50 years old treat art as part of their image and lifestyle. Therefore, younger art collectors are observed to be more willing to buy and sell their pieces of art, while the older generations have the tendency to keep them.
Younger collectors are also often more interested in collecting emerging artists further forcing diversification in gallery and auction house offerings. Phillips has a New Now sale, which focuses on new and emerging artists, typically at lower price points than their Contemporary sales. In an effort to educate buyers, they produce lists of artists to watch, who they believe are on the rise. Sotheby’s has invited guest curators like Fabrizio Moretti (the Strokes) and executed sold-out collaborations with HighSnobiety, to attract young collectors to their Old Masters’ sales. Sotheby’s partnered with Supreme to create a 20 Years of Supreme skateboard sale.
The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report published staggering statistics on art purchases by young collectors during the pandemic:
Clearly, the young collector market is growing, has money to spend, and prefers to do it online. Galleries and auction houses are adapting their models to cater to these trends. There are also various platforms and collectors clubs that target, educate and sell to this younger market.
Christie’s launched their Christie’s Young Collectors Club in 2019 – a clear indication of a commitment to growing their young collector base.
The club’s mission is to nurture and assist the growing young collector’s movement with education and awareness of the art market and its components with the aim of helping them to establish and maintain a solid art collection.
For £250 a year, members will be invited to monthly talks by Christie’s and other galleries, art advisors, artists, curators and other art market professionals. While these events have been conducted virtually in the recent past, the ability to meet other collectors at in-person events is usually part of the appeal.
Whitechapel Gallery has a programme similar to Christie’s, where for a yearly membership fee, members get invited to the annual First Futures party, VIP previews, talks by curators, artists and other art world professionals, and insider access to Whitechapel (with associated discounts/free entry). This programme may have greater appeal for collectors looking to gain knowledge of the art world while supporting a public institution.
While following a similar model to Whitechapel, the Serpentine Future Contemporaries encourages members to see themselves as “a new generation of philanthropists aged 39 and under”. Although at a much steeper price point (suggested annual payment of £1,000), the members get a similar offering of access to educational, contemporary, art-focused events and entry to art fairs.
The Art She Says Collectors Club is a group in New York targeted towards women in art. Members are invited to private views, lectures, drinks and dinners with like-minded leaders of the art world. You can subscribe to different programmes (Salon Series, Power Series, Mastermind Series, and Jetset Series), depending on your interest. They also offer a virtual membership for members not based in New York. While the individual series are quite reasonably priced (ranging from $15-$29 a month), full physical membership is $1,500 for the year.
Artuner is a multi-faceted platform that allows users to browse by artwork, artist or exhibition (the exhibition feature being a key difference between Artuner and other digital platforms). They stage full exhibitions (both digital and physical pop up) rather than just selling individual works. With their digital walk-throughs, accompanied by text and video interviews, the experience is a close simulation to a live gallery visit. It allows viewers to have a better idea of the scale and impact of a work. Their Magazine educates collectors on their exhibitions and features interviews with artists. Artuner’s founder, Eugenio Re Rebaudengo, also sits on the Committee of the Tate Young Patrons, Serpentine Gallery Future Contemporaries and Whitechapel First Future.
Artsy is the powerhouse of the online art platforms, having received $100 million in investment since it was started in 2009. The platform does virtually everything: you can view artworks, artists, auctions, viewing rooms, galleries, fairs, shows and museums. Leading galleries, auction houses, fairs and institutions can partner with Artsy, broadening their reach and allowing their art offerings to be searchable on one database with a multitude of filters. For collectors who don’t know what they’re looking for, Artsy makes browsing incredibly easy, with lists of trending artworks, featured artists in different categories and topical collections like “Portrayal of Queer Love” or “Black Figurative Painters on the Rise”. For collectors who don’t know where to start and are used to the ease of online shopping, Artsy is an unparalleled resource. For those who are accustomed to going to a gallery and viewing one exhibition by one artist at a time, it may be slightly overwhelming.
In an effort to retain and offer the human element and expertise, Artsy specialists are able to advise collectors on how to build their collections or in which direction to take a search.
The Guggenheim Museum has both a Young Collectors Council and a Young Collectors Council Acquisitions Committee. For $600 or $1,200 respectively, you are invited to attend curator-led events and private tours and given the opportunity to vote on new museum acquisitions. The ability to vote on acquisitions is unique to this programme and provides members with valuable insight into the acquisitions process.