art · luxury

Art Collectors Conundrum: Culture Clash

As explained in previous posts, Art Collectors Conundrum explores the current issues surrounding art collecting. There are a lot of different issues that impact new collectors as they journey into the art world, and one of those big issues is the dissonance that exists between aesthetic indulgences and minimalist ideals.

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Betye Saar, Blow Top Blues, The Fire Next Time (1998)

The thing is, the culture of today’s wealthy – especially wealthy millenials – leans more toward minimalism and less toward acquisition of material goods. Any time spent on social media will confirm the “shift” from a culture of excess to one of spartan decorating practices. Many millenials favor the bare walls and monochrome decor that makes for clear, appealing Instagram photos. And, if they select art, the art often lacks the color, texture and excitement that used to be favored by collectors.

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Betye Saar, Indigo Mercy (1975)

In short, this cultural clash results in fewer “new” big spenders. Bloomberg wrote about the “new elite” and their artistic tastes. The article points out that location has much to do with the cultural difference, too: East Coast “new money” tends to buy art in the more traditional fashion, while West Coast “new money” isn’t as interested in purchasing pricey art “for arts’ sake”.

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Betye Saar, Twilight Awakening (1978)

The key to luring in these potential art investors isn’t as simple as one would think. The most important thing to remember about the new wealthy is that they are earning their fortunes much earlier than the wealthy of previous generations. They just aren’t as likely to be focused on art collecting if they are buying their first homes and starting families.

An interesting way to get the new wealthy interested in collecting could be an art loan program, which allows them to enjoy works for a fixed period of time and then they can purchase the work if they want, or turn it back over to the gallery to “try out” something different. It isn’t a perfect solution but it would provide them with some exposure to fine art and would help them hone in on their personal tastes and preferences.

Those are some of my thoughts on overcoming the dissonance between minimalist goals and owning art. What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your comments below!

(all art by Betye Saar and in the National Gallery of Arts collections)

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