AXA Art survey probes art collectors’ motives and methods

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Mature, highly educated male collectors with a passion for art are driving the art market according to a new survey carried out by AXA ART.

The survey is a response to growing conversations about the rapid expansion of the global art market, its sustainability, the exploding prices for quality works, the art market’s geographic decentralization and the notable numbers of new collectors in advancing economies.

Through its survey of international collectors, AXA ART set out to learn more about the people who collect and why, what and how they collect.

AXA says the AXA ART Collectors’ Survey 2014, a multilingual quantitative study in which almost 1,000 international collectors participated in an online survey, is part of its objective to develop more innovative ways of assisting collectors as they seek to protect their art and collectible assets with art insurance.

Those participating in the survey placed themselves into four distinct categories of collectors: the art aficionado (37%), who exhibits a passionate enthusiasm for all things art related; the traditionalist (16%), who follows a long family tradition of collecting; the investor (24%) who collects art to diversify his investment portfolio; and the hybrid collector (23%), whose motives are so diverse that they defy categorisation within the other three sub-groups.

The research nonetheless uncovered a universally shared trait amongst all the sub-groups: all the participants are art-lovers who find pleasure in collecting.

The majority of those participating in the survey are highly educated and male, ranging in age from 40-69.  And, while they collect treasures across a range of  categories, 89% of the respondents selected paintings as their top choice, with works on paper and sculpture following. Nearly half of the correspondents indicate they collect photographs.

1 in 10 of the participants in the AXA ART Collectors Survey has collections worth over $1 million; whereas 15% hold acquisitions valued under $100,000.  However, a third of the research participants preferred to remain silent on the size and value of their collections.

Asked about the motives for their collecting, 65% of the AXA ART Collectors’ Survey participants  said they were not systematic collectors but rather collect what they like based completely on gut instincts.  30% collect based on the quality of the objects, with a prospective increase in value playing a secondary role.  5% of respondents base their collection activities on a curator’s plan.

AXA ART also tackled the question of why people collect. 80% of respondents cited a love of beautiful things; 72% described collecting art as a passionate activity, and 79% said they enjoy occupying their time with and developing a comprehensive knowledge of art.

When it comes to getting informed before making an acquisition, 95% of AXA ART Collectors’ Survey participants said that art fairs are often a rich s source of information. But conversely, while two-thirds regard fairs and exhibitions as important or very important sources of information and research, 73% selected galleries as their preferred location to buy art.

The internet still plays a secondary role for the purchase of art. Almost all collectors in the AXA ART research (95%) indicated they have used the web primarily for research and as an initial form of approach before pursuing an actual acquisition. Although 34% have used the internet to purchase works of art, a further 42% were adamant in their refusal to conduct online purchases, some as a matter of principle.

Explaining AXA ART’s motives for undertaking the survey, Dirk Heinrich, managing director at AXA ART, said: “We continue to recognize that art and collectible assets represent the passion, legacies and investments of our clients.  Further, on-going shifts in the art market bring unique challenges for international collectors.

“Our role as a truly global art insurance specialist calls for having a deep understanding of the players who drive the international art market, to be able to craft and deliver specialized solutions to meet these shifting demands.”