Young, ambitious, educated and wealthy, a new generation of art collectors is taking the art world by storm.
Snatching up more works than ever, a new generation of keen-eyed buyers are taking risks on emerging names and investing heavily in top artists. Beyond the potential financial gains, these ambitious, educated and wealthy young people are also drawn to the prospect of joining the closed club that is the art world.
“The growth has just been phenomenal,” says Charlotte Raybaud, head of evening sales, 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips Hong Kong, of the number of young art lovers entering the market. “It is also undeniable that art has become a very valuable alternative investment. While you should always collect [based on] your passion, it’s hard not to pay attention to the big prices that are achieved at auctions and in galleries.
Today’s young collectors not only buy more art, they are also willing to shell out more than any other demographic. According to UBS and Basel ArtAccording to the 2020 Global Art Market Report, among high net worth respondents, millennials – defined as under 38 – have spent six times as much on art as collectors over 55 over the past two years. years. Compared to older collectors, millennials were also more optimistic about art as an investment and were more likely to sell works from their collection than older collectors.
A recent report titled The next generation of art collectors 2021 by art data firm Larry’s List echoed that sentiment. She highlighted the fact that young collectors, whom they define as largely under the age of 40, like to keep their collections “vibrant” by upgrading, rebuilding and refocusing. While collectors reselling works of art are common, their research has found that the activities of young buyers are now more transparent than before.
Among the list of top young patrons featured in the report is Ning Chong, co-founder of The Culture Story, a Singapore-based boutique art and consultancy space. Like many young collectors, she comes from a family of patrons. Her father, former stockbroker Chong Huai Seng, started buying art in the 1980s. Today, the family collection of over 300 works includes major street artists such as Futura, Jason Revok and Timothy Curtis, as well as Singaporean names like Jahan Loh and Wong Keen. “We buy art because we love it, but at the same time you have to know what you are buying, so we have an eye on the future prospects,” says Chong. “Buying art can be tricky. Timing is important and you need to have a thorough understanding of what is going on. “
In recent years, Chong has observed an increasing number of new entrants to the art market for various reasons. “Today,” she said, “even if you are not in the art, you can let yourself be drawn into it, either by your peers or by your own curiosity. Or maybe your favorite fashion brand is involved in art, then you follow their activities. Social media also obviously increases the appeal of art as a potential alternative asset class to increase your wealth. “
Many collectors invest in a lifestyle associated with being part of the art world. “There is an increase in the number of collectors who want the set,” says Raybaud. “You want to have designer furniture, wrist watches and beautiful paintings at home. Even if there is not necessarily a monetary gain, there is at least an aesthetic gain where collectors can live with very beautiful works.
Another benefit of investing in art is the social aspect of an area where you can build relationships with artists, join museum groups, or support foundations, all of which can be important aspects of the journey. collection for many young buyers. This is one of the factors that makes it more attractive than other assets, like stocks or real estate. “It offers a great social benefit. You can go to art fairs and vernissages and take studio tours with artists, ”says Chong. “You meet different types of collectors and exchange stories about art they regret buying, what they like or what they have been looking for. It’s all part of what thrills the community. Knowing the artists is especially important for some collectors, like Shanyan Koder, founder and director of private art consultancy Shanyan Koder Fine Arts and founder of the online art platform HUA, which showcases contemporary Chinese art. “I think it’s so important to understand the story behind any work of art,” says Koder. “So if you meet the artist, you meet the creator of the artwork in the flesh and that brings the entire artwork to life. You understand the context in which it is created and the history of the person. It creates a link. ”
Daughter of Canning Fok, CEO of Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate group, Koder grew up surrounded by art. His family’s collection includes masterpieces by Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Dali and Warhol, as well as modern Chinese masters such as Sanyu. His own personal collection focuses more on established contemporary names including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and London designer duo Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard, as well as contemporary Chinese artist Zhuang Hong Yi. Currently, she is considering digital art supported by NFT to add to her collection. . Its Hua platform is also working with art consultancy firm Crysalis to publish a new collection of digital works by Gao Brothers and make NFTs available.
“It has everything to do with the evolution of the art world into the digital age. I love the concept, I think it’s avant-garde, ”says Koder, explaining that NFTs appeal to both young and seasoned collectors. Today, as galleries launch NFT trading platforms and auction houses live stream major sales, the art world is increasingly evolving online, making art an investment. more attractive to young digital savvy collectors. They no longer have to venture into stark white cube galleries or old-fashioned auction rooms and can instead shop for one-click art. “Art is not as exclusive as it used to be,” explains Koder. “Now it can be viewed on social media – everyone uploads images to WhatsApp and WeChat, so it’s much more accessible. It gave the younger generation the opportunity to come in and participate.
In addition to embracing technology, auction houses are finding new, creative ways to reach a younger demographic. Many auction houses partner with celebrities and brands. Sotheby’s, for example, has previously worked with Highsnobiety, the streetwear-focused digital platform, and Christie’s has partnered with Supreme. Last month, Sotheby’s teamed up with Mando-pop megastar Jay Chou, a major influencer with more than 6.4 million Instagram followers, who held his first Contemporary Curated: Asia sale. The auction featured notable brand artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama, alongside high-demand young talents like American painter Loie Hollowell and Japanese artist Yukimasa Ida. More than 25 percent of buyers at the evening sale were 40 years of age or younger. According to Sotheby’s, social media played an important role in marketing the sale, which also aired live on Jay Chou’s Kuaishou account and garnered some 18 million views.
It’s not just auction houses that harness the power of social media. “We have a huge increase in museum exhibitions and gallery exhibitions, which are becoming more and more prevalent on social networks,” says Raybaud, who explains that this can inform the acquisitions of young collectors. The Art Basel market report also noted that many millennial shoppers use Instagram, for example, as part of their collection process. According to Larry’s List report, a number of artists who appeal to millennial collectors are themselves active on social media.
It is also not surprising that young collectors are often drawn to artists of their generation. Young collectors pay great attention to museum exhibits, adds Raybaud, citing the example of two young artists who performed well at Phillips’ recent spring sales: Loïe Hollowell, who is currently exhibiting at the Long Museum in Shanghai, and the Indian figurative painter Salman. Toor, who exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City earlier this year. Both generated great interest and set new records. At the top of the market, Raybaud says that if young collectors don’t have the budget to bring home major works from big names like Yoshitomo Nara, for example, whose paintings can sell for millions, they can choose a work. more affordable from the same artist. .
As the landscape of the art world continues to transform, young collectors are poised to become an even more powerful force in the market. While Koder describes herself as a ‘romantic’ who doesn’t buy to invest, she nonetheless says, “There are growth opportunities just like any asset class. I think one of the coolest things about art is that most artwork is unique (unless you buy additions or prints) so you just need more of a buyer interested in the price going up, so to speak… The potential is only on the rise.
(Hero image: street artist Futura, with works from Constellation to Culture History)