As major players in the art market, collectors play a significant role in the overall health of contemporary art’s ecosystem. Many preconceived ideas circulate about their motivations and sometimes go so far as to question the very sincerity of their attraction to art. There is a common opinion that there is a "typical profile" of an art collector: a male individual, over 50 years old, with strong purchasing power. And yet, the motivations that animate art collectors are diverse, evolving, and complex, making it practically impossible to classify them within a particular and predefined category.
As a gallery owner, understanding the levers of your buyers is essential to better adapt to their needs. What are the main motivations of today's collectors? In a context of the plurality of thoughts and motivations, can we really claim the existence of a unique profile? Find out with Artsper everything you need to know about these shadow actors!
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art, New York, U.S.A.
Contemporary art collectors are all elite
Often caricatured as eminently rich, collectors of contemporary art are subject to many stereotypes. If it is true that according to a study published by the Ministry of Culture in 2016, 75% of them are indeed well-off men over 50 years old with a high level of education, the fact remains that the remaining 25% have a much more modest budget. Nevertheless, they contribute to the dynamism of the art market in the same way as their counterparts. These collectors are above all enthusiasts who set a predefined budget for each acquisition. They make a thoughtful choice to invest their money in a work that means something to them. Moreover, collectors with a very high budget are not in the majority. Only 16% spend more than €50,000 per year, compared to 30% who do not exceed the €5,000 mark.
Contemporary art collectors only buy to enrich their financial heritage
Buying a work of art is not necessarily a financial investment. Indeed, it is common to think that the collector is primarily interested in the financial capital of a work. And yet, the first role of art is in the transmission of an emotion and in the communication that takes place between the enthusiast and the work. It is not always a financial approach. The purchase is generally motivated by an emotional approach.
Moreover, at Artsper, we do not promote works of art according to their financial interest, but rather the quality and diversity of our collections. Only certain buyers have the necessary expertise and portfolio to consider art as an investment. The majority of our buyers are above all at the heart of their hearts.
Collectors buy and accumulate compulsively
We often have in mind this perception of the collector as an owner. Eager for art, he satisfies his insatiable need to own more and more by buying. But most of the time, collecting works of art goes beyond this materialistic approach! A collector is above all a passionate person. Certainly, he is eager to satisfy his appetite for art, but he sees beyond the object itself. It is not simply the purchase of a good, but the meeting between a passionate person and the work of an artist.
Regular collectors spend a significant amount of time learning about new works by their favorite artists, scouring fairs and galleries, meeting new artists... For a collector, each work counts, each one is unique and singular. With a few exceptions, the purchase is never frenetic, but the result of a thoughtful and conscientious approach. It is up to you to multiply the opportunities to meet your buyers and to do everything possible to provide them with as much information as possible.
Understanding the current motivations of contemporary art collectors
Guided by plural and interdependent motivations, collectors contribute on different scales, but in a complementary way, to the dynamism of artistic creation. It is thanks to the plurality of their reflections and choices that contemporary art abounds in such great diversity. Each motivation or approach can be explained and is legitimate. By understanding it, you will be able to transform your visitors into buyers.
Priority to the creation or the creator?
Some collectors seek first and foremost to develop a "collector-artwork" relationship, a link between the buyer and the art object he buys. In this case, the work in question is more important than the artist and it is often a "favorite" purchase.
Others, consider the human work behind the work as the motive behind the purchase, and not the creation as such. This type of collector is in the majority! This type of collector thus develops a more thorough, reciprocal, and global reflection: a "collector-artist" relationship. Nearly three-quarters of collectors take the step of meeting the artists whose works they have purchased.
Some art collectors can be likened to patrons: they support and accompany the artist throughout his or her career. Money and notoriety then constitute considerable levers to propel an artist to the forefront of the artistic scene. Through the purchase of his works, the art collector helps the creation and becomes a real actor of promotion. Often, great collectors take under their wings an artist whose message, approach, and artistic sensitivity touch them.
Beyond the work, a collector invests in potential, a creative capital. In this case, do not hesitate to accompany his approach, communicate to the collector all the new creations of his favorite artist, and be sure to indicate how he can help the longevity of his career. You can also anticipate this phenomenon by putting a new artist in touch with a collector who is likely to appreciate his work. Identify collectors among your clients who are willing to contribute to the creation, and accompany them in their support, even if they prefer to remain in the shadows.
An altruistic commitment?
Beyond the sentimental relationship that an art collector develops with the work he acquires, there is a parallel, more philanthropic dimension: the human relationship that develops with the artist. In the book "Collectors of Contemporary Art", Nathalie Moureau and two other co-authors conduct a study on a sample of 320 people. They note that a significant number of collectors develop a supportive relationship with the artist and his work. Regardless of their financial capacity, it is often collectors with limited means who will struggle to help young artists expand their visibility. These invested collectors are also part of the 25% of collectors with modest budgets that you absolutely must conquer.
Particularly at ease with social networks, they appreciate galleries that dare to go off the beaten track. Offer them in priority emerging artists and new international talents, with a real history and carefully chosen.
Art as a social distinction?
Buying art is perceived by some collectors as a factor of social elevation. The price of the work defines its value, it allows the collector to feel privileged and to distinguish himself from a group of individuals. The term "social distinction" should not be perceived as pejorative. A more altruistic approach may eventually emerge unconsciously from a search for social distinction! In this case, the collector bets on an artist only if he releases promising potential and notoriety in the art market.
To seduce this typical profile, take advantage of your excellence in terms of knowledge of artists' ratings. Don't hesitate to bet on new fashionable artists or those who are highly noticed at art fairs, to attract the attention of these collectors.
In conclusion, the difficulty in identifying art collectors lies in the complexity and pluralism of their motivations. There is no single profile, but rather thousands of collector profiles. Moreover, each collector can be found in several profiles. According to a study conducted by Larry's List in more than 70 countries, there are more than 3,000 collector profiles! This confirms the end of the era of the "standard profile" ...
All the more so since new motivations and habits are emerging, bringing with them a breath of fresh air among collectors. However, the motivations mentioned above remain among the most widespread. In particular, they allow you to classify your target in several segments. Indeed, a patron collector will not have the same desires as a collector who sees art as a social distinction. He will not have the same criteria as a young collector who wants to support the artists' cause! Once these broad categories have been met, it is now up to you to adapt your communication strategy to better address each of your targets.