Women and Millennials Are the Fastest-Growing Forces in Art Collecting, a New Study Finds

Nearly one third of wealthy women own art or are interested in buying it.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ©Patrick McMullan, Jared Michael Siskin/patrickmcmullan.com.

Statistics about the collecting patterns of new or newly wealthy art buyers are notoriously hard to come by, apart from what can be gleaned through analyzing auction data, usually at the very top of the market. However, the latest survey from US Trust, the private wealth management division of Bank of America, may help shine more light on the matter.

The findings showed that while the traditional art market is still largely dominated by male collectors, women are an undeniably growing force. Among all survey respondents, one in three high-net-worth women either owns art (14 percent) or is interested in collecting (16 percent), with interest among women higher than men. A considerable uptick in online art buying is also being largely driven by women, the survey found.

US Trust has been periodically surveying wealthy households since 1993. The latest independent study surveyed 892 high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth households across the country. The special section on art includes findings about respondents’ reasons for buying, frequency of buying and selling, and their longer-term views of their art holdings, such as aesthetic value versus financial appreciation.

Source: US Trust

Source: US Trust

While baby boomers are still the dominant generation of art collectors—comprising about half of all current collectors—millennials are the fastest growing segment. Their rates of art ownership rose 8 percent since last year, to 36 percent of the total respondents.

While aesthetic enjoyment continues to be the primary reason for collecting art, “a generational shift is now underway,” the survey said. Younger collectors tend to be more financially driven and attuned to the role of art as a financial asset, with a third of millennial collectors seeing their art as an asset to leverage into more wealth. This new generation of aspiring collectors is also drawn to the social aspects of collecting, such as engaging with other collectors and artists, the survey found.

Source: US Trust

More than 75 percent of the collectors polled said they “anticipate making a purchase this year.” Nearly all (97 percent) of millennial collectors and 60 percent of Gen X collectors said they would buy this year. Plus, younger collectors appear to have less reservation when it comes to selling: “The old adage that collectors aren’t sellers is fading. . .Expect more market churn going forward, especially via digital channels, which may bode well for auction houses and dealers.”


The survey also showed a considerable uptick in online art buying: 43 percent more collectors bought art online in the past year compared with 2017. Women were the biggest drivers of the growth in online acquisitions, which may be partly attributed to the “rise of the digital channel for decorative arts in particular,” according to the survey.

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