With an already volatile art market, the youngest generation of buyers is throwing another variable into the mix.
And, this young generation likes to mix things up.
President John Kennedy recognized the role arts play in society, initiating government alliances to support the arts.
A shift, he recognized, to be significantly different from traditional arts patronage. As a result, the National Endowment for the Arts was established by President Lyndon Johnson, and corporations launched private grant programs to support the arts.
Today, however, buyers are responding to technology that serves more art, to more people, in fractions of the time.
For those born after 1980, a.k.a. Millennials, these recent technologies create new ways to experience and buy art. As a result, new business models continue to emerge.
Take the crowd-funding sites Kickstarter and Patreon, for example. By connecting artists directly with enthusiastic arts patrons, these sites make it possible for collectors to contribute on a "pay-what-you-wish-basis." With this micro-funding model, patrons are able to fund more projects and support a greater number of artists.
In a fiercely competitive market, artists have the potential to gain massive exposure and, what's more, a recent study found that crowd-funded projects and jury-selected projects were of equal caliber.
However, jury-reviewed grants are still essential to establishing artists’ careers, and our creative use of technology will ultimately influence how the arts are funded.
Online and virtual experiences boost unique, real-time events
Art is not only the object; it's the experience.
While online sales are up, galleries and art fairs are still as popular as ever. Art is an experience of the senses, and people seek unique places with a strong emotional impact.
Take, for instance, the Art Institute of Chicago’s effort to attract visitors to a large Vincent Van Gogh exhibition. Partnering with the ad agency Leo Burnett and Airbnb, spaces in the museum were reconstructed in the likes of Van Gogh’s bedroom. Guests could rent the rooms out for $10 a night, while also receiving text messages from staffers posing as Van Gogh himself.
The result? The museum saw over 15,000 visitors in the first three days of the exhibit, with average attendance 70% higher than anticipated!
More museums and organizations are integrating new immersive experiences, using social media and technology to amplify the excitement.
More places will share their art online
Tech-savvy organizations are sharing collections online, increasing public awareness and creating new opportunities to share art and its history.
Because Millennials lead the way with social media and online sales, more artists, galleries, and museums are engaging directly with audiences. Collectors and critics can discover and evaluate more art, more easily, and arts organizations are eager to connect.
Depending on how galleries, auctions, and institutions manage their online and social media presence, followers can engage with specialized content and collectors can quickly find and acquire new work.
What some places are doing to cultivate young collectors
Art auctions, fairs, and museums are all creating programs and events targeted specifically toward young collectors.
For example, Christie’s has developed what they call First Open to attract first-time buyers, described as an event to open the season for post-war and contemporary art sales. Art that is up for bid at First Open includes a wider range of established, emerging, and undervalued artists, priced especially for young and new collectors.
In Memphis, city-wide initiatives encourage young patrons to contribute to arts programs, including contemporary art fairs, music, and dance performances to stimulate urban revitalization.
Some museums have been historically slow to embrace 30-somethings on their board of directors; a change met with trepidation.
However, organizations that are committed to cultivating younger generations of patrons are seeing a greater age range among board members in efforts to remain relevant and vibrant. One such program, MoMA’s Junior Associates seeks young movers and shakers who are enthusiastic about the arts and eager to contribute.
Art still gains value over time
It's hard to say what innovation the art market will embrace next, but young collectors aren’t afraid to go after what they want, and they trust technology to facilitate and amplify the experience. The pace for turnover will likely increase, as young collectors are showing confidence in both acquiring and selling art for profit.
As Millennials gain maturity, they will likely see their investment grow as time passes. Successful artists and organizations will balance convenience with intimate experiences using platforms that perform best.