While the art market has proven to be more resilient than other consumer goods, it is not immune to macroeconomic changes in respective regions. In case you missed it, this article serves as an overview of the 2023 Art Market report on global collecting by Art Basel & UBS. The report is based on surveyed High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs), described as “those with disposable household financial assets of over $1 million in 2023. The collector survey was distributed in 11 regions over a 3 month period. To ensure their active participation in the art market, the selected respondents needed to have bought art worth more than $10,000 between 2021-2023. This criteria screened out individuals resulting in a total of 2,282 qualified respondents, with an average age of 41 years from the UK, Hongkong, Japan, Mainland China, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Taiwan, Brazil, US, and France.
The majority of this sample consisted of the Boomer and Silent Generation collectors, accounting for 19% of the sample as seen in the figure below. This demographic is a very important segment of the art market, with some of the largest collections of art and antiques globally. 13% of the sample were Gen Z collectors, a growing share in this research as these collectors mature and the segment naturally increases over time. The average age ranged from 38 years in regions like the UK, and Japan (as over 60% of the participants were millennial and Gen Z collectors) and 44 years in Germany.
Size of HNWI collections by generation and number of artworks owned, 2023 © Arts Economics
Size of HNWI collections by number of artworks owned and location, 2023 © Arts Economics
Across all markets, 62% of the works owned were unique works in traditional art mediums such as paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Paintings were the largest area of collecting overall (36%) including across all generations, wealth levels, and length of experience collecting. In terms of new additions to their collections in 2022 and 2023, paintings constituted the largest area of spending across all markets. Prints, and photography made up 16% of HNWI’s collections, and this share ranged from 10% in Mainland China to over 20% of the works held by Brazilian and Taiwanese collectors. Hence Brazilian and Taiwanese collectors have more appreciation for photography and prints than those in China. Finally, photographic works in collections fell from 8% in 2022 to 6% in 2023, which is a reasonable result considering the sample had a high number of Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong collectors.
Size of works in collections by medium, 2023 © Arts Economics
The share of works by new and emerging artists was slightly smaller than the surveys in 2022, with an equally larger share of holdings by established artists. This could reflect differences in the sample but given there were less collectors in the highest wealth tier (those worth over $50 million), it could imply a shift towards more risk aversion over the last couple of years. Germany, France, and Hong Kong had the highest focus on new and emerging artists, where they accounted for over half of the works contained in collections. The highest concentration on established artists was in collections from Mainland China (42%) and the US (36%). While Chinese collectors had a relatively high focus on established artists in previous years, this was not the case for US collectors. The results of the survey indicated that US collectors have a growing interest in works by new and emerging artists as more than half of their collections have been dedicated to this artist segment.
Share of works in collections by artist status and wealth levels, 2023 © Arts Economics
The average combined expenditure on art reached $65,000 in 2022, while the expenditure for the first half of 2023 was also reported as $65,000 (as of September 2023). This indicates that by the end of 2023 there could be a significant increase if spending continues at this rate.
Furthermore, younger millennial and Gen Z collectors showed the largest spending improvements on average from 2021 to 2022, implying that as they mature, this group spends more on art and antiquities over time. Previous surveys showed that younger millennial collectors reported the highest spending before the pandemic, but in this sample, Boomers had the highest average values in both 2022 and the first half of 2023. Gen X collectors were the second-highest spenders, and have seen the most consistent growth, with spending in the first half of 2023 already surpassing the median level for 2022. As expected, Gen X and Boomers, had the highest spending growth in early 2023.
Both male and female collectors saw an increase in 2022, and based on median expenditure women spent an average of $72,500 in the first half of 2023, even though men reported higher average spending. This higher average value is affected by a small group of very high male spenders (spending over $1 million in each period than women). In summary, the highest spenders are female Gen X and Boomer collectors so far in 2023, with works by new and emerging artists held by collectors in Germany, Hong Kong and France.
Businesses in the art market have maintained strong online sales in addition to a better return to in person sales at fairs and exhibitions. Collectors have become more comfortable with purchasing through online channels as their e-commerce experience has grown. The most common channel for purchasing art in 2023 was through a gallery or dealer, with 86% of respondents purchasing either directly, online, or through an art fair.
HNW collectors were also active outside of galleries, auctions, and fairs, with 13% of their total spending in 2023 through external online and social media platforms. Moreover, this was lower than the share in 2022 of 20%, with the biggest reduction in purchases on NFT platforms (from 8% to 5%). As highlighted in previous research, although collectors allocate a relatively low proportion of their spending to Instagram and art fair online viewing rooms (OVRs), these platforms can be used as the channel for sourcing and discovering new works and artists, while the actual sale is made through a gallery or fair, at auction, or sourced directly from the artist.
Using points from the psychology of collecting in the 2023 survey, the participating collectors were asked for the most important motivation out of the following categories, to investigate what prompts them to purchase art for their collections:
- Financial investment, including the expectation of gaining a financial return on investment.
- Self-focused motivations such as self-identity, personal pleasure, the desire to improve one’s image, or other aesthetic and decorative influences.
- Relations to others, including social and networking motivations for collecting and being part of the art market.
- A compulsion, passion, or addiction to collecting.
- The preservation of family or historical traditions.
- Support of artists and culture or other philanthropic motivations.
Collector motivation for buying art in 2023, categorized by generation © Arts Economics
The results indicate that self-identity (37%) was the highest motivator for buying art in all markets except Brazil and Japan, where financial motivations ranked higher. Across all regions, financial motivation was the second highest (28%). Previous surveys had shown European and US collectors are motivated by financial drivers compared to those from the Asian Market. Asia had a lower share of financially motivated collectors, with the US still ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Mainland China.
Boomers accounted for the highest share of financially motivated investors (32%), while millennials had the largest share being driven by a passion for collecting art. Only 14% of collectors reported that their primary motivation was a passion or compulsion to purchase art, with the highest share in Hong Kong (at 23%), ranking just below the third most popular motivator of relations to others (including social and networking motivations for collecting and being part of the art market).
Individual collectors have different motivations when adding to their collections, with most having several drivers that lead them to purchase particular works in the market. The complexity of these drivers and diversity of backgrounds poses challenges in the survey. Some may respond with what they deem appropriate or socially acceptable motivators hence skewing the answers. Find out details on the psychology of collecting in the Art Basel UBS report.
The art fair calendar has slowly regained momentum since the impact of the pandemic on the art market. There is reportedly stronger engagement by collectors, galleries, and artists at exhibitions, fairs, and other related events. The current sample showed a lower level of events attendance in 2022, with the total averaging 34 across all collectors, which further fell to 32 events in 2023, including those already attended in the first half of the year and planned attendances for the second half. These figures indicate that the pandemic and other factors may have had a longer term impact on the activity of collectors in relation to events.
Looking ahead to 2024, 92% of collectors were planning to continue attending art-related exhibitions and events, either the same or more than they did in 2023. Across all regions and demographics, only 4% thought they may reduce attendance. UK collectors with a majority of 63% are hoping to attend more events. In terms of international travel to exhibitions, fairs, or other art-related events than in 2023, 66% said they intended to travel more to events next year. A stable share of just 12% expected to travel less, and for those collectors, the most important reason for this was the rising costs of overseas travel, less interest in overseas events and exhibitions, in addition to traveling less to reduce their carbon footprint. As collectors are aware of and concerned over the sustainability of the art market, 72% of the respondents felt the transport of artworks could be more sustainable, believing that using alternative delivery methods to air travel such as sea or land, is important when available.
Top 10 concerns regarding the Art Market for HNW Collectors in 2023 © Arts Economics
With regard to plans over the next 12 months, some of the most active buying plans were reported by collectors from Mainland China, with 68% planning to purchase works in the coming year, along with those in Japan, Brazil, and Italy. The lowest share of purchasing intentions was by collectors from Singapore and France. Millennial and Gen X collectors also had the highest majority planning to buy art with 58% and 59% respectively. The report also shows some uncertainty about how the market will perform in the coming year as 26% of collectors planned on selling works in their collection, while the majority reported that they would hold off on selling, because they believed the prices would improve in future. The greatest share of HNW collectors planning to sell were those from Taiwan (37%) and Japan (33%), while the lowest shares were from Mainland China (18%,) and the UK (19%).
Regardless of the turmoil in the financial sector, high inflation, the post COVID-19 impact, and the ongoing effects of the war in Ukraine, 77% of HNW collectors remained optimistic about the art market’s performance over the next six months. Paintings remained the most popular choice for planned purchases, followed by sculptures and works on paper.