From twenty-somethings wanting to splurge on NFTs, to over-sixties spending seven figures at auction, 2022 was a busy year for art collectors both young and old. With the market now being frequented by such a diverse range of ages, how should galleries adapt to appeal to both new and established art collectors?
Artsper used data from the 2022 Art Basel and UBS Report to better understand what makes Generation Z, Millennial, Generation X and Boomer collectors tick, following trends taken from a sample group of high net worth, active collectors. Looking at average spend, favored media and artists, preferred means of buying art and tendencies towards new areas of the market such as NFTs and digital art, our specialists have compiled a generation-by-generation study of trends to help you, as an artist or gallery, tackle the ever-growing pool of art collectors.
From Gen Z to Boomers, collectors of all generations are willing to spend money on art. © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
The new kids on the block, members of Generation Z (Gen Z) are fast becoming some of the key players within the art market. In the first half of 2022, Art Basel reported that these collectors, aged between 12 and 25, spent over 30% of their net worth on art, and this figure has continued to rise as we move into 2023 (Art Basel). In terms of how much this younger generation spends, they were the most likely to buy works at lower prices, with 26% of the sample spending in a range lower than $50,000, and 10% under $10,000 (source: Art Basel).
Gen Z and Millennial collectors are the most likely to purchase art through online platforms, without seeing the work in person. © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
When it comes to how Gen Z goes about buying art, it is little surprise that this digital-native generation is the most likely to look to online galleries and auctions when buying art, as opposed to in-person events. 72% of Gen Z collectors prefer to buy art either online, or via phone/email, and 54% of them claimed to regularly buy art without seeing it in person, the highest across all generations, according to Art Basel. What’s more, Gen Z are the generation most likely to use online platforms, rather than galleries, when buying NFTs and other forms of digital art, highlighting their willingness to acquire works online. For galleries, try and prioritize your social media presence, spotlighting certain artists or hosting online exhibitions that coincide with major art events. Also, don’t be afraid to open your catalog to NFTs and other pieces of digital art.
Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996, represent the biggest consumer demographic, and this extends to the art market, representing 52% of high net worth customers. Like their younger counterparts, Gen-Zers, Millennials are more inclined to buy art online, without ever having seen the work in person. Equally, this generation of thirty-somethings is the most open to taking risks when investing in artists, with 6% of millennial collectors only buying works from new artists, compared to 4% of Boomers (source: Art Basel). Despite their relative newness to the market, Millennials are also willing to spend big. They represent the second highest percentage (after Boomers) of collectors paying over $1 million for works of art (source: Art Basel).
After Boomers, Millennials were the generation of collectors most likely to spend over $1 million on a work of art. © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
Financial investment aside, the emotional response to a piece of artwork is key for Millennial customers when deciding what to buy, with 95% citing “emotional benefits” as a motivation factor for buying. Like Gen Z collectors, transparency and honesty from the gallery they’re buying from is paramount to Millennials, as well as buying from socially and politically aware artists, who champion values resonated by them through both their art and their daily actions. Make sure to be as transparent as possible with your customers, and this includes transparency surrounding your artists. In an age where there is so much choice on the market, solidifying yourself as a gallery with strong moral and ethical values will help you stand out and appeal to Gen Z and Millennial collectors.
Collectors born between 1965 and 1980 make up Generation X, the silent backbone of the art market. Despite having been active buyers for longer than Gen Z and Millennials, and representing the second largest demographic at 35% of buyers (just after Millennials), their average spend on art is the lowest of all generations, at $379,000 in 2022 for high net worth collectors (source: Art Basel). What’s more, they are the generation least likely to make purchases of over $1 million, with 24% of Art Basel’s sample group of Gen X surpassing the $1 million bracket, compared to 47% and 33% of Boomers and Gen Z respectively (source: Art Basel).
Conservative spending from Gen X was seen in 2022, compared to their older and younger counterparts. © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
Unlike its younger counterparts, this generation of fifty-somethings still favors in-person, face to face experiences when purchasing art, however interestingly out of all the age brackets, Gen X bought the highest average number of digital artworks with an NFT, an average of 14 works per high net worth client (source: Art Basel). Despite their predisposition towards more traditional means of buying art, figures such as this suggest that the more mature generations are still open to embrace innovation when it comes to the type of work being bought.
Gen X, despite their conservative spending, has seen a strong investment in NFTs and digital art, acquiring on average 14 works in 2021 and 2022. © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
Having had the most time of any generation on this list to accrue wealth, it is little surprise that Boomers, collectors born roughly between 1940 and 1964, are still doing most of the heavy lifting within the art market. Despite no longer being the largest customer demographic in terms of size, proportionally Boomers are at the top of the list for almost every category when it comes to purchasing art. Well-versed Boomer art collectors have the largest collections, 55 works compared to an average of 45 amongst the other generations (source: Art Basel). What’s more, according to Art Basel’s report, they purchase art at the highest prices, 38% reporting typically buying art at prices of over $1 million.
Boomer collectors are planning on growing their collections, rather than selling them. Art for personal gain rather than as an investment? © Arts Economics (2022), Art Basel and UBS
However, despite having the biggest spenders within the market, it seems that Generation Jones still favors, like Gen X, tried and tested methods of buying and selling art. Just 16% of Boomers opted to buy digital art and NFTs through online platforms, compared to 28% and 26% of Gen Z and Millennials respectively (source: Art Basel). What’s more, this generation of collectors tended to be a little more reticent when investing in new artists, with just 4% of collectors buying from only new artists in 2022, compared to 6% of Millennials (source: Art Basel). As a gallery, why not spotlight collections by master artists, highlighting works by famous figures within the market? What’s more, prioritize the importance of fostering a valued relationship between you and your clients. Art is, after all, an emotional thing, and nurturing good relationships with your clients is vital to success as a gallery.
Art for any age…
With an active pool of collectors spanning over 50 years, it is clear that the contemporary art market is no longer the reserve of one specific generation. With a dynamic crowd of young collectors flooding the market and showcasing their willingness to spend big, galleries should adopt engaging digital communication and push the visibility of online sales. Traditional means of buying and selling art are not to be overlooked, however, as across the generations in-person galleries and auction houses still remain the favored means of viewing works. From Gen Z to Boomers, in-person interaction and relationships remain an important component of the art purchasing process, and working on the human contact with customers is paramount to a gallery’s success.