PAI Opinion: ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’

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Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Courtesy Popperfoto, Getty Images. Time Magazine.

Humphrey Bogart’s iconic toast to Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 cult film Casablanca might not have been a reference to the art market, but it certainly has some bearing on it today: with the growing significance of Millennials.

The latest Art Market Report – sponsored by Art Basel and UBS – reported that global art and antiques sales dropped 5% year-on-year last year. At $64.1bn, 2019 was the first year to show a decline since 2016 – when it dipped to $56.9bn.

In comparison with 2009’s $39.5bn, this is not enormously worrying. But it has made one thing clear to anyone who looks at the figures below – the art market is stuck in a sub-$70bn vortex.

Growth in Sales in the Global Art Market 2009-2019. Courtesy The Art Market Report 2020.

Geographically, the US, UK and Chinese markets retained top spots last year. While the dealer sector amassed sales worth $36.8bn overall. Auction houses followed next, at $24.2bn, and online sales accounted for $5.9bn.

As part of the report, UBS Investor Watch and Art Economics also detailed the conclusions of two-year research on the topmost bracket of art collectors. Data collected from 1,300 active High Net Worth (HNW) collectors across seven regions showed that Millennials – currently aged 23 to 38 years – acquired and also spent the most on art. 

They were also the most regular users of online channels – including Instagram – to buy art. Just 8% had never bought art online. Say what you will about Millennials, they are spending six times what the generation before them does on art.  

And it is female HNW collectors who are leading the charge within this set, spending higher, on average, than their male counterparts. Their numbers also rose to 37%, up from 33%, in 2019. Something to celebrate only a day after International Women’s Day.

HNW Millennial collectors might be the market shapers we need in the current climate. And an ounce of confidence can go a long way. So: “Here’s looking at you kid!”