Industries that enriched the world’s best art collectors

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Changes in the concentration and composition of the industry have been accompanied by geographic changes. Although most collectors still come from the United States and Europe, China’s breathtaking economic growth has been accompanied by the growing importance of its collectors: their number among the top 200 rose to 10 in 2016 by compared to thirty years ago. Japanese collectors have been less important lately than they were 20 years ago, dropping from seven to three, although the spectacular purchases by Yusaku Maezawa, the proud owner of the $ 110.5 million painting sold at Sotheby’s in May, may signal an upcoming resurgence for his country. importance.

But in an industry as traditional and rich in relationships as art, there is still a high degree of continuity over the past 20 years. About two dozen names (or about 10% of the total), plus or minus a spouse or two, appear on both lists, although the average age of these collectors was approaching 80 in 2016.

Some of them lined up their kids to take their place, including retail moguls like Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of The Gap. Their son Robert Fisher appeared on the list in 2016 with his wife Randi. Likewise Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg; Warren co-founded Bed Bath & Beyond, and their son Martin and his wife Rebecca inherited the passion and the means to collect. The presence of children in the 2016 list helped increase the share of the retail category to 14% of the top 200, up from 10% in 1996.

And, of course, the wealth inherited more broadly is still a significant core of the resources that flow into art: about two dozen collectors on each list have inherited significant fortunes or business interests, some several generations old.

What about the most prominent industry of our time, technology? The industry’s share of top art collectors has grown from 2% to 5% over the past two decades, but that still seems small for an industry with so many new billionaires. That could change in the future, as they grow into their 30s, 40s and 50s, ages when people tend to start collecting, McAndrew said. Woodham noted that art didn’t seem to be “exciting” to them at the moment, perhaps, he suggested, because “artistic innovation doesn’t seem deep enough for what it costs. much of the works, and in relation to the forms of innovation they see in their fields.

But that could change as the expanding cultural scene in the Bay Area spurs more exposure. Entrepreneurs are “smart, resourceful individuals who… are open to new ideas,” said Woodham. “Artists are a source of creativity.

Interestingly, researching collectors on the 1996 and 2016 lists – those who made their fortunes recently or earned it through family – yields results primarily related to their art collecting activities. Like the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Rockefellers and Gettys of the Gilded Age whose names adorn museum buildings and exhibition halls, this current generation of art collectors is creating new legacies through their patronage, while information about the sources of their wealth fades into the distance. pages of research results or lies buried in trade publications.


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