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How to handle millennial collectors
As the art market is changing, galleries, merchants and auction houses are seeing their business mod...
Art Stuff 11 Feb 2020

Kaia Gerber

Image via @kaiagerber Instagram

As the art market is changing, galleries, merchants and auction houses are seeing their business models disrupted. Although Gen Z is already starting to cause rifts on the art market scene, millennials are still the most discussed generations to date, when it comes to collecting art. Now aged around early 20s to late 30s, those much loved millennials, who were born between the early 80s and 90s, have been characterized in a number of different ways. Generally, millennials exhibit characteristics and habits that radically differ from the previous generations. As the age group that experienced life with and without the internet (how did we do it!?), they are innovative and tech-savvy, reject the norm and communicate primarily through social media. They are the biggest generation in the US labor force, 56 million – according to the Pew Research Center. They’re also the quickest-growing generation of collectors among high-net-worth clients. In a survey taken by US Trust last year, results showed that 8% more of millennials were owning art in 2018 than 2017.

So all in all, millennials offer a large proportion of the income for auction houses, dealers, and art advisers and leave a formative stamp on the way art is seen, bought and collected. So they are not to be ignored!

To learn how to handle an millennial art collector it’s time to learn what makes them differ from the rest of the art market.

Think outside the Box 
The younger generation likes to reject the norm, so brands are having to become a bit more creatively when it comes to marketing their products. To attract younger buyers auction houses have recently sold the collections of young rock stars, collaborated with street wear brand and even enlisted the help of a certain spice girl to sell works of art by Old Masters. By collaborating with cult icons, brands can identify with the younger generations via artists and brands that they relate to on a personal and cultural aesthetic level.

Stand out from the Crowd
Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the history, according to the Pew Research Center. This fact has is causing a big change in the art market today. Due to the fact that they are diverse and global means they want the people whose art they are buying to reflect that. Biography and identity are really important to young collectors. For example, there has been an enormous serge sale of work by female artists or African American artists. White male artists are slowly being knocked of the list of names to collect and highest earning artists at last.

Podcast Crazy
Younger buyers are now crazy about podcasts. According to a recent LinkedIn study, 42 % of people under 35 listen to podcasts, and major art-world players like Sotheby’s, Lisson Gallery, Artsy and David Zwirner have all jumped onto this bandwagon.

Anti IRL 
Many art companys are growing their online presence to target millennials where they usually linger. The younger buyer is more likely to buy online than their forerunners. In fact 93 % of high-net-worth millennials reported having bought art online, according to the 2019 Art Basel/UBS market report, whereas a large proportion of Baby Boomers never had. Mobile apps have opened new possibilities for the art world. Many younger art enthusiasts use notifications or alerts to find out when an artist of interest will appear at auction. Artsy reportedly sold a piece of art for $1.4 million on its mobile app. Over the last 5 years, several online auction houses have been appearing, the most well known of those being Paddle8, Artsy and artnet. As well as auction house giants such as Christies and Sothebys nearly every auction house today has an online bidding platform.

Bella Hadid via 90s babes

Bella Hadid via @90sbabes Instagram

If the Price is Right 
Despite the rumors that millennials are loaded, younger collectors generally have less  money than their ancestors. This means companies are going to have to change their pricing strategies soon once the baby boomers stop buying. In reference to this Christie’s has recently launced their 100 sale. The online-only auction features nearly 100 lots, all with $100 starting bids. Lots range from unnumbered editions of Yayoi Kusama pumpkins to a Wade Guyton poster.

Network & Hustle
The young collector is networking with more people now than ever. Not only are they being social butterflies but the younger buyer is also taking the initiative to reach out directly to get access to things by themselves, earlier, before its being shown at a gallery.

Not Afraid to Take Risks
Millennial collectors are more likely to take risks within the contemporary market especially. As mentioned before it is more about biography and identity which causes a greater connection to the art work than the possibility of making money.

cancer mood

Image via Cancer_Mood

Social Media Savvy
Millennial collectors use social media to stay in touch with artists and galleries to create a  direct connection. More often than not, they’ll add the artist and gallerist on Facebook and Instagram. Likewise, more companies are using social media to promote their businesses to millennials and Gen Z.

Knowledge is King
It’s hard to sell art to people who don’t know much about it. Part of the appeal of collecting is participating in an enthusiastic community and developing a vocabulary for thinking and talking about visual art and young collectors want to get involved. They don’t just want to buy art, they also want to know more about the art world. Many well established art institutions across the globe are well aware of next generation of art collectors. Institutions like the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and auction house institutions like Sotheby’s Art Institute all have programs that get Millennial collectors involved early.

So, now you know it’s time to befriend the millennial as they play a big role in supporting the inclusive and lucrative global art community! To better anticipate changes in this sector, it is important to focus on the generations that will be our customers of tomorrow.

Text by Peigi Mackillop

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