Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Art Collecting in the Digital Age

I came across a report about a survey of art collectors - Collecting in the Digital Age - done back in 2014 - which I'd not seen before. It's worth highlighting the key messages.

The survey was done by AXA Art who insure art and collectibles
  • The survey was done online. 
  • 972 people from around the world were asked questions between January 28 to February 25, 2013
  • The questions asked were based on several dozen long, face-to-face interviews with collectors.  The purpose was to check out themes raised in the conversations.

It should be noted that the survey was obviously directed at people with serious wealth.  While a third of respondents stayed silent on the size and value of their art collections, of the rest....
only a minority of respondents own small collections with less than 25 objects (15%) or a value of less than 100,000 US $ (22%). 
There again who wouldn't want to know more art collectors who have serious money for art collecting!

Particularly if you've gone professional and are now pricing your art accordingly.

Art collectors: who collects what, how, why and where?

Who is the art collector?

  • the typical collector and Internet user is a man
  • 80% have a college or university degree,
  • 73% of collecting is done by people aged between 40 and 70
  • most collecting is done by people with no children at home
  • nearly half are self-employed or entrepreneurs
  • only 25% are employees

What do people collect?

People like things which hang on walls.
  • 89% collect paintings
  • 63% collect works on paper (drawings / prints etc)
  • 60% collect sculpture
  • 49% collect photography

People collect a lot of other things - read the report!

Preference for the type of art collected varies with age
  • everybody likes contemporary art
  • young people like new art
  • older people like more traditional art 

How do people collect?

The survey report came up with a typology of collectors. The described them as follows
  • Young collectors: 8% of the collectors in our sample have "just started collecting recently".
  • Active collectors: only 45% of respondents state that they "have been collecting continuously and for a while".
  • Sporadic collectors: 18% buy collectables "every now and again in phases, with long intervals in between". 1 in 10 collections is worth more than $1m
  • Mature collectors: 16% are already beyond the peak of their collecting activities – they "have been collecting for a while, but not as intensively as before"
  • Non-collectors: A noteworthy minority, 11% of respondents, say they "would not regard themselves as collectors".

Interesting when asked about their collecting strategies....
  • most (65%) said they did it on "gut instinct"
  • 30% collect items of high quality

Why do people collect?

Three common reasons were
  • "I love to own beautiful things and to surround myself with them" (80%) · 
  • "I enjoy occupying myself with art and developing a comprehensive knowledge of art"(79%) 
  • "Collecting is a passion of mine" (72%)

Where do people purchase?

Collectors research before they purchase. 77% want to know about one thing - the artist.

(Anybody thinking they need to do a website / social media review of the information the put out in the morning?)

The think the best place for getting the information they want is art fairs.
  • 64% use trade fairs, exhibitions, events, presentations 
  • 62% find out via galleries
  • 58% read printed media, trade journals, newspapers, books 
  • 58% like to have discussions with artists 
  • 52% use their personal contacts to find out what they need to know
  • 51% use the internet - via online media, websites, internet forums, social networks 

The survey then asked "Where and how do you buy your works of art or collectable items?"
  • Most (73%) buy via galleries
  • However - and very importantly - 63% buy direct from the artist (now you know why galleries don't release details of who buys your art!)
  • 59% buy via auctions

For the rest of the places see the chart on the right - or the report.

Interestingly although 95% of art collectors visit art fairs only 39% purchase there.

Plus art advisers are a LOT less important than they may think they are!

Clearly the art fair is the place to meet galleries, find out who does what, see what interests - and find out about the artists!

There is a divergence of opinion about the importance of the internet

  • 95% use the internet for communication and researching art they're interested in.
  • However:
    • only 34% had bought artwork online
    • BUT 42% did not contemplate ever using the internet for purchasing art.

Which means that another 24% might do so in future!

All those thinking that serious art collectors do not use the internet need to do a rethink!

Different types of art collectors

The rest of the report - which I recommend you read then focuses on the different types of art collectors

I'd suggest you read these sections in detail to try and understand the sort of people you are dealing with when it comes to art collectors.

These are
  • Type I: art aficionados – collecting out of passion - typically people who like contemporary art; like their collection to express their personality and value the social contacts and friendships they get through collecting art. They often have a plan for how to develop their collection.
  • Type II: traditionalists – collecting over generations - they collect because their family has always collected - it's what they do!  They also like to own and surround themselves with beautiful things and preserve them for future generations to enjoy them.  Two thirds collect on the basis of gut instinct.
  • Type III: investors – collecting for the portfolio - these are people who read auction results and prices paid for an artist the way others would read stock market changes. They collect for investment and enjoy speculating on whether an artist's work is likely to move up or down in value.  Their purchases give them status and express who they are in society.   They are more likely to buy via auctions or on the internet. They are less likely to visit the artist's studio.


For me, the different types of art collectors will remain stable over time. The motivations are similar irrespective of the sector of the art market we are talking about - although I think the Investors are probably more important at the high/expensive end.

My guess is the internet has become much more important since the survey was done.  As I indicated recently in Art Collectors and Instagram, social media has proved invaluable to many collectors for being able to survey what's on offer and just browse.

The imperative for artists is to:
  • make sure you present both themselves and your art in the best possible way - on websites and through any social media that they use. (see Marketing and Communication for Artists)
  • make sure that art collectors can find out 
    • what they want to know from you
    • how to buy or commission art from you. (check with independent third parties whether your website makes that easy or difficult).
  • make sure that any art gallery that sells your work knows how to promote art and artists on the Internet!


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