Home Magazine Are Young Collectors shaping the ‘New Normal’ in the post COVID-19 Art Market?

The pandemic has been a difficult challenge for the Art World. We have seen international galleries and art fairs shut their doors. Contemporarily, their expansion to online platforms has seen a significant acceleration. Within the context of COVID-19 restrictions, Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020 observes a surge in the number of young and new collectors buying online, with growing interest in social causes.

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Without a doubt, 2020 has been a decisive year for the Art Market. Already losing $64.1 billion in 2019 (Artsy, 2020), the Art Market is particularly subject to the buying trends of the past year. In the practically global lockdown, galleries and art fairs were forced to shut their doors and postpone to an unforeseeable future. This determined a dramatic shift to a digital marketplace and the emergence of new trends. 


Photo by Mingche Lee, Paintings on a wall, 12 August 2018, Courtesy of the artist ©Mingche Lee.


More specifically, according to Hiscox’s yearly online art trade report there has been an outstanding 37% boost in online auction sales since 2019. The UK-based insurance company explains how, among online buyers, particular attention should go to young collectors. When looking at the data presented in the report, this group appears to not have been discouraged at all by this shift. Hiscox explains how young, and new collectors have been leading the way – even affirming that they intend to continue to buy artwork online. As they actively use websites or Social Media platforms for networking, sharing, buying, and posting on a daily base, the strong presence of this group cannot be a surprise.

But who are these young collectors? Described as risk-taking on Artnet in 2015, there is more than a simple confidence in online purchases behind the actions of young collectors. Although disputable, this group is said to be less acquainted with the Art Market and less interested in historical references. Nevertheless, young collectors are most definitely less conventional than older or more traditional art collectors. To understand this group’s interests, perhaps we should consider their behaviour more closely.


Photo by Nhu’ Vân, Grayscale Photo of a woman standing near a Painting, 20 May 2017, Courtesy of the artist ©Nhu’ Vân.


Interestingly, Hiscox observes how young collectors are moved by different motivations than those which have characterised the habits of art collectors in the past. In particular, the factors which lay behind purchases are not strictly connected to status, or the need to show one belongs to a social group anymore. In fact, as stated in the report, during the COVID-19 pandemic ‘Compassionate Consumption’ has emerged to be on the rise. Resulting to be more important than investment returns, and second only to ‘Emotional benefits’, a notable 76% of new buyers and 79% of under 35-year-olds indicated that they bought art to support artists and art organisations.

To conclude, we cannot ignore that this trend is especially interesting given the fact that online platforms are becoming more and more central for campaigns – such as the Artist Support Pledge. Indeed, given the centrality of the digital marketspace, young collectors may be particularity aware of the need to support artists and support social causes. In the near future, this could lead to great changes as the younger generations of collectors take transparency at heart and demand a more socially engaged Art Market. Considering the importance of these trends for an already weakened Art Market – could this interest in social causes even shape its ‘New Normal’?


Photo by Hrag Vartanian, Art Basel Miami Art Fair 2018, 4 December 2018, Courtesy of the artist ©Hrag Vartanian.


Cover image: Photo by Nicolas de Camaret, Frieze Art Fair 2011, 14 October 2011, Courtesy of the artist ©Nicolas de Camaret.

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

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