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A shift in sensibilities

16 September 2021

A shift in sensibilities

The pandemic is working as a catalyst for altering the profile of the art collector with sales moving online and digital art being in demand.

In these uncertain times, although art exhibitions and other art-related activities are affected, there is some amount of traction happening in terms of sales; the majority of which is taking place online through artists and gallery websites and social media accounts.  

It appears that the collector profile has seen a shift, where now, it is the young, upcoming, and well-travelled buyer in his early 20s and 30s, who is collecting art for multiple reasons. Of these, many are first-time buyers, who have been introduced to art through their artist friends. Most of them are investing in art created by known artists within their social circle, where the key driving force has been to offer support in these difficult economic times. Having said that, the younger demographic is also very aware of art as an asset class and is not averse to looking at it as a financial investment. 

Another contributing factor to art sales is the fact that during this period, avenues for travel and other sources of recreation are limited, making disposable incomes for a large category of people with recent jobs and decent salaries, more readily available. The millennials, savvy with social media, online research and viewing rooms, and a stronger risk-taking approach, are comfortable with buying art as an investment and also for their homes. The young collector is more open to newer materials and mediums, and artworks that have been created in support of social causes, or by artists who are differently abled or represent specific causes.

A time for digital art

Digital art and NFTs are areas that have seen much activity around them — both in terms of production of artworks and in sales, again, predominantly by the younger and emerging artists and collectors. This is not surprising given that both digital art and NFTs require software knowledge, some amount of Photoshop or programming skills, familiarity with the Internet and technology, skill sets that come easily to them. However, this is an arena that is new and evolving, and there is hesitancy from a section of analysts and collectors in gauging how it will play out in the long term.

On the other hand, artists who were in high demand before the pandemic have continued to do well. Many collectors are finding comfort in the familiar — artist names and paintings they have bought previously. However, overall, the spending amounts are concentrated towards the lower end of the spectrum, especially in the primary market. The volume of sales remains low compared to pre-Covid days since sales are now emerging from a smaller group of artists.

In another interesting trend, independent wealth managers and those from private banking are exploring interactions with art consultants to introduce their high net worth clientele to art as an investment option in a bid to diversify their portfolio. Whether this translates into financial activity in the art market or not remains to be seen.

The author, Nalini S Malaviya, is a Bangalore-based art consultant, curator and writer. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached on [email protected]

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