3 March, 2021
As stated in our previous article on record-breaking auctions, millennial art buyers have been playing a significant role in the art market. According to the 2020 edition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, millennials are now the fastest-growing segment of collectors, purchasing and spending more than any other segment in the market. But, who are the millennials and what is the millennial generation looking for when it comes to investing in art? How is their growing importance in the art world accelerating a long-awaited digital revolution?
Born between the beginning of the 1980s and the mid-to-late 1990s, millennials, also known as Generation Y, have become considerable actors in the industry, often compared with boomers, individuals born between 1945 and 1965. The millennial generation’s growing influence in the art world has emerged from its significant economic weight in the market. Besides being the fastest-growing segment of collectors, the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report notes that 21% of contemporary art collectors are under 40 in 2020 and high net worth millennial collectors have spent six times more than boomers in the last two years.
Moreover, millennials are savvy investors. According to a study undertaken by the US Trust, millennials are not afraid to sell artworks. They are twice more likely than boomers to consider art as a financial asset, blurring the line between collectors and sellers.
That said, financial gain is not the only driver behind acquiring art for millennials. The social impact of their investments is equally as important, as they tend to invest in artworks and artists to fulfill philanthropic aspirations. Between March and September 2020, 68% of millennial art buyers participating in The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market study affirmed that their investments were influenced by their will to support artists during the pandemic. Similarly, the growth of millennial art buyers in 2020 was in parallel with a rise in female collectors, resulting in greater gender diversity in the art market. In the past two years, 34% of female collectors have spent more than $1 million in art acquisition, against 25% of men. Based on this data, one could argue that the rise of female collectors and millennial art buyers correlate and, therefore, female collectors may represent an important portion of the millennial segment.
Survey undertaken by Arts Economics and UBS Investor Watch between 2017 and 2019 demonstrating that Millennials spend and buy more than any other categories
Furthermore, the millennial generation has slowly been shaping the art world to its technological habits. Unlike older generations, millennials use digital tools to consume art. Amongst social platforms used by millennials, Instagram has become an important marketing tool for artists and galleries but also collectors seeking to purchase new artworks. The art market seems, therefore, to not only rely on physical places anymore but on a multi-channel consumption of art developed by millennial art buyers. And, this move to digital platforms has been hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic. To survive the pandemic, galleries and art fairs had no choice but to rely on online sales and exhibitions. Whilst 72% of the galleries surveyed by Art Basel and UBS increased their online content, 69% improved their presence on social media to face the crisis. This proved to be an effective strategy, as the share of online sales amongst art galleries rose by 10% between 2019 and 2020.
Unsurprisingly, younger art buyers, who are largely accustomed to purchasing various assets online, were at the heart of this digital revolution. According to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, amongst online buyers in 2020, millennials represented the largest share of high spenders, with 14% having spent over $1 million. Meanwhile, boomers only represented 5%. Millennials declared that the pandemic strengthened their interest in art and 60% of them claimed to be confident about the market’s performances in the coming year, against only 24% of boomers.
Hence, one could argue that the pandemic exposed the digital gap existing between the art market, its actors and other industries. The emergence of Generation Y in the art world seems to be leading to a long-awaited digital revolution, resulting in a greater online presence for artists, galleries, buyers and collectors alike as well as leaving us with a strong shared sense of optimism for the art market in the years to come. Indeed, millennials declared that the pandemic strengthened their interest in art and 60% of them claimed to be confident about the market’s performances in the coming year, against only 24% of boomers. We’re going to side with them.
Art Basel, ‘Millennial collectors are coming of age – and women are the biggest spenders’, 2020, https://www.artbasel.com/news/millennials-art-market-2020
Eileen Kinsella, ‘Millennials Are More Interested in Buying Art Than Ever—and 5 Other Takeaways From a New Art Basel Report on the State of the Market’, Sep 2020, https://news.artnet.com/market/six-takeaways-from-art-basel-report-2020-1906859
Evan Beard, ‘The Rapid Rise of Millennial Collectors Will Change How Art Is Bought and Sold’, July 2018, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-rapid-rise-millenial-collectors-will-change-art-bought-sold
Hiscox, Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020, https://www.hiscox.co.uk/online-art-trade-report
UBS, ‘7 Insights from the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2020’, https://www.ubs.com/global/en/our-firm/art/2020/artmarket-insights.html