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How is the UK Art Audience looking Like Today? On ‘Metroculturals & ‘Experience Seekers’

Gen Z are social media native, despise anything associated with big business, and are consumers seeking alternatives with a socially conscious bent.

Overview of the subject matter.

To thrive, an art business needs to know who its clients are and what collectors are after. Today’s society changes at a speedy pace and there is no way for an art gallery to ride the wave of uniqueness and innovation without knowing the preferences, habits, deepest concerns and aspirations of those who consume art and culture. Awareness of the key features of the art market cannot be limited to an interest in art economics and to the reading of reports on global/local sales trends; indeed, understanding the social factors behind statistics is paramount and at Arrière-Garde we pay great attention to the human element through which numbers are generated. As we are based in London, we want to share our knowledge of the art demographics in the UK.

In the UK cultural landscape of 2022, Millennials and Gen Z make 48% of the ‘Metrocultural’ population, that is: prosperous liberal urbanite groups, who choose the city lifestyle for its broad cultural opportunities, who have their preferred art form or style, who represent good prospects for emerging artists and new, innovative artworks, and who are highly responsive to e-commerce; likely to take up digital offers and to make recommendations to friends.

Millennials and Gen Z, in the UK, make also 48% of the ‘Experience Seeker’ population, that is: the most significant part of urban art audiences, who are highly active, diverse, social and ambitious singles and young couples engaging with art on a regular basis. Experience Seekers tend to live close to the city centre, are mostly in search of novelty and have disposable income to spend on art, art memberships, bars and restaurants. They are digitally savvy and share experiences through social media on their smartphones.

In the UK, Metroculturals and Experience Seekers are those among the Millennials with a growing interest in buying both digital art and unique artworks (such as paintings, sculptures, and drawings) online. They are also high representatives of those art buyers who use social media as a primary source of discovery. In a recent Artsy survey, ‘66% of buyers said they use Instagram or other social media networks for discovery and 26% said they buy art from Instagram. Millennials and Generation Z are leading the trend’.

Millennials are nowadays the fastest-growing segment of collectors, but how do they behave and what are they looking for when it comes to buying art?

Millennials blur the line between collector and seller because they are not afraid to resell what they buy and to treat artworks as a financial asset. According to London Trade Art, ‘the social impact of their investments is equally important, as they tend to invest in artworks and artists to fulfil philanthropic aspirations', and they even bought art at major global art fairs during the pandemic merely to support artists during the crisis.

According to Art Basel, recently, art galleries' focus on attracting the attention of millennials has increased, and ‘according to the New York-based art advisor Heather Flow, of whose clients approximately 70% fall within the demographic, precision is key. “Truly engaging millennial collectors requires galleries to rethink ideas of transparency, flexibility, diversity, and sustainability,” she says. “The gallery business model must adapt to consider these elements”’.

Moreover, and according to Joe Kennedy, the co-founder of Unit London, a gallery opened in 2013 in London which made extensive use of social media to build up its business and has grown to become a 6,000 sq. feet space in Mayfair, “as well as being used to getting what they want—from instant delivery pizza to personally customised Nikes—this generation is turned off by some ingrained practices of the art market, such as elitism, exclusivity (the velvet rope outside a vernissage) and a lack of transparency. Withholding information such as price lists just breeds suspicion, particularly since millennials have a deep distrust of corporations, preferring influencers on social media to guide their decision-making in many domains”.

With respect to Gen Z, the prominent art newspaper ‘The Art Market’ states that this generation ‘accounts for 32% of the population (and 40% of consumers), according to data from Bloomberg, nudging them ahead of the relatively senile 22 to 37-year-old millennials. Combining Gen Z’s purchasing power with the influence they have over the spending habits of their parents leads the analysis to conclude an indirect potential spend of $3bn’.

Gen Z are social media natives, despise anything associated with big business, and are consumers seeking alternatives with a socially conscious bent. They are a key winning audience for art start-ups and initiatives looking to get attention and to succeed in a ‘big brand artworld’.

With the older Gen Z about to finish university and to join a post-global pandemic labour market, which adds to their lower buying power, art businesses like ours must have a cystal-clear view of the entry price point. According to Ellie Rines, a New York based gallerist who predominantly sells to clients under the age of 40, a good price point is around US$ 500 to 700, the same amount spent on a nice pair of shoes. At blue chip global auction house Phillips, the online-only ‘Unbound’ auctions targeting the youngest collectors saw art selling from US$ 375 to 750.

Further, and somewhat as a natural response to the insights we are sharing today, at Arrière-Garde we believe in the democratisation of the art market: any art lover should be able to afford art and transform his/her home into a ‘temple to art’! And in this sense price point matters! Why should you hang a poster in your house when your dream is to own an original?? And why so nowadays; when you can acquire unique and high-quality art which - given the current movement that is overthrowing the often opaque and exploitative nature of the traditional gallery model - is not going to be overpriced ???


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