‘Next Gen’: Who Are They and How Will They Change Art Collecting for Good?

‘Next Gen’: Who Are They and How Will They Change Art Collecting for Good?

Source: London Trade Art.

What is the new generation of young millennial and Gen Z art buyers, also known as ‘Next Gen collectors’, interested in and how are they expected to force art market players to change their ways and visions for the future?

Exactly one year ago, we wrote an article on the rise of millennial art buyers, who, according to the 2020 edition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, were the fastest-growing segment of collectors, purchasing and spending more than any other segment in the market. Millennial art buyers have proven to be savvy investors, twice more likely than boomer collectors to view art as a financial asset, blurring traditional lines between the two worlds. Obviously, they are also more tech-driven and interested in consuming as well as purchasing art through digital media, having largely boosted their interest in art during the pandemic. While millennials are still dominant in the art market, they are quickly becoming accompanied by Generation Z buyers, who are expected to bring an even bigger, long-awaited digital revolution. So, what exactly interests this new generation of young millennial and Gen Z art buyers, also known as ‘Next Gen collectors’ (Artland Magazine) and how are they expected to force art market players to change their ways and visions for the future?

Importantly, ‘Next Gen’ collectors are not only inheriting wealth from their families in the form of personal property (or passion assets), such as vintage cars, jewellery, rare books, wines, etc.; many are also self-made, making them wealthier than ever. According to The Art Basel & UBS report (2021), the millennial generation is predicted to inherit between 20 and 70 trillion dollars in wealth and assets by 2030. In addition to material wealth, this generation is also inheriting a fast-moving market of new and affordable assets, exposed to more ways to invest digitally than ever before. Whether they will decide to build on their inherited assets or forge their own path has yet to be seen, but this will be key in assessing the extent of their involvement in the art market. For now, it would appear that this generation is not bent on resting on their laurels, but rather, acting as changemakers when it comes to art market trends.

One such change is already seen in contemporary art sales. While this new generation is still largely interested in the traditional mediums of sculpture and painting, still collecting works by Blue-Chip names, such as Basquiat, Warhol and Chagall, they also always have a keen eye on emerging artists that they can add to their collections. Indeed, according to Artnet News, lots by young contemporary artists (born post-1975) increased by 250% between January 2013 and July 2022, while total auction sales for young contemporary art increased by a whopping 700% in that same period (data cited in The Fine Art Group). The new generation has been pushing these numbers to new heights.

Moreover, another important factor to take into account when predicting how ‘Next Gen’ will collect art is their involvement in social media and passion for ‘personal branding’. For, this is a generation that is always digitally connected, carefully curating the content they post online to manifest their values and how they seek to be seen outwardly. Unlike previous generations, they truly care how their art collections represent and speak to their personal brand. According to Larry’s List (2021), as cited in Artland Magazine, the majority of ‘Next Gen’ collectors want to have a personal connection to the artists they buy art from as well as their subject matter. More than anything, they seek transparency. They are socially conscious, seeing themselves as largely having a duty to support emerging artists and art that relate to their personal beliefs, usually based on topical social issues.

London, UK – October 2, 2019: Goldfish, Art on display by Banksy at the street artist’s Gross Domestic Product temporary showroom in Croydon, South London

Furthermore, due to their love of social media, it comes to no surprise that ‘Next Gen’ would also use these channels to not only consume but also buy art. Specifically, Instagram continues to be one of the most widely used channels by art buyers. That said, there are also an increasing number of online marketplaces and galleries, which use innovative technology, including blockchain, to showcase their artworks. This technology has not only offered more transparency, key to ‘Next Gen’, but also made e-commerce transactions even more secure, leading to young art buyers feeling more comfortable to make higher purchases online. In short, this young generation is used to buying online and likes it. This aspect is not to be neglected by art businesses, if they are to successfully target ‘Next Gen’.

Undeniably, ‘Next Gen’ is used to swiftly jumping on ‘to the next big thing’, perhaps motivated by the constant uncertainty of their ever-changing environment, eager to hop on emerging, tech-driven trends. This is obvious with the past rise of NFTs and digital art, as well as growing interest in the metaverse. Art trend fluctuations have become evermore frequent and this is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, so key values for success will be flexibility and speed in adaptation.

Considering all of the above, how can the traditional art market industry keep up with the changes brought on by ‘Next Gen’ and remain fresh and exciting in their eyes? The simple answer is that they will need to embrace new technology, not shun away from the power of social media and incorporate social as well as personal stories and values in the marketing of their artists and artworks. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), we are no longer living at a time when taking ‘what has always worked’ for granted works. Auction houses, galleries and other art businesses will need to be increasingly proactive to remain one step ahead of tech changes, which will include virtual gallery spaces (metaverse). Change can be daunting; however, it can also bring about positivity, such as by geographically expanding the market through online channels and digital creations. The art world is open for business and ‘Next Gen’ knows it.

Interested in learning more about how art and tech will drive change in the art market, especially in the auction industry, watch our recent interview with auction management platform Artisio Co-Founder & CEO, Berdia Qamarauli here.