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Sustainability is a digital-savvy Millennial/Gen Z concern, so Why not More Sustainable Art Around?

A new generation of art collectors and buyers has not only emerged, but also taken the lead and is setting the trends of digital purchase.

Through our social and demographics line of research, we have discovered that - according to ‘Deloitte Global 2021’, which offers an extremely interesting Millennial and Gen Z Survey - the youngest generations are ‘deeply concerned about climate change and the environment. More than 4 in 10 Millennials and Gen Z agree that we have already hit the point of no return when it comes to the environment and that it’s too late to repair the damage. However, a majority are optimistic that people’s commitment to take personal action to address environmental and climate issues will be greater post-pandemic’.i Another key finding of this survey is that these generations are aware that certain businesses have more impact than others on the environment and that their buying decisions have been determined by such awareness.

Further, in the UK, the ‘Climate Change and Net Zero: Public Awareness and Perceptions’ (2021) of the HM Government shows that ‘85% of participants reported that climate change was a concern. 14% of them perceived climate change as affecting their local area by a ‘great deal’ compared to 42% of UK participants perceiving climate change as affecting other countries by ‘a great deal’. Around half (54%) of participants perceived their local area to be experiencing climate change effect to ‘at least some extent’’.ii

This research paper shows that a large portion of the participants are aware that lifestyle changes are necessary to fight climate change, with 50% of them stating that the UK should pursue an equal mix of technological and lifestyle changes to reduce UK carbon emissions. The survey used a quota sampling approach with quotas in line with UK proportions for age, gender, nation, ethnicity and social grade.

Participants’ perceptions of the likelihood of changes occurring over the next few decades suggest that energy efficiency, food waste, energy usage, and transport both terrestrial and by flight were extremely likely will most possibly adjust to climate change needs. Buying habits also scored high with almost 50% of the participants thinking that they will need to change in the next decade or so.

Almost 70% of the participants were between the age of 18 and 54, with 51.2% of them being between 18 and 44: that is the age range that belongs to the digitalised society, which makes purchases online daily, art included. Finally, 50% of the total participants believe that the UK should pursue a balance between technological and lifestyle changes to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. The figure suggests that 25% of the total participants are Generation Z and Millennials who are aware of the need to engage in a change of behaviour to fight climate change instead of just expecting solutions coming from technological improvements and other external factors.

Returning to microanalytical views, 6 in 10 Gen Z and 56% of Millennials express strong ethical and social concerns, with emphasis on systemic racism, personal background and unequal distribution of wealth and income as factors that impinge upon societal progress. This shows how their concerns expand beyond the environmental one and way into the social factor.iii

Academic research shows that Millennials and Gen Z intensely use computers, ‘mobile devices and social media for sourcing and purchasing art, dismissing the need of experiencing the work of art in person before buying it, particularly in the case of less expensive work’.iv Their behaviour greatly differs from that of the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers, who although have a much higher budget and can afford top-segment six-figure artworks, are resistant to online buying and therefore make very expensive work of art difficult to trade online.v

Global art surveys have shown that Millennial collectors, besides their developed awareness towards environmental and ethically viable lifestyle solution, lead art market sales, spending 6 times more than Baby All in all, at a global level, ‘today 21% of buyers prefer to buy art online and this preference goes up with younger generation: 78% of Millennial collectors in the US bought art online, versus 40% of collectors from all age groups’.vii According to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2019, 80% of art buyers go to Instagram to discover new artists and pieces of art that are available to buy. Yet 23% of millennials had never bought an artwork in a gallery, auction, or fair prior to buying art online. Staggeringly, 79% of millennials said they had purchased artwork online more than once within the past year.viii

Millennials and Gen Z are both aware of their agency in terms of sustainability, climate change and social factors, and the most willing to buy art online. They are those most likely to tap into the large majority of online art sales, which belong to the lower and mid-price segments too; as they are most likely to apply their social and environmental awareness whilst exploring the purchase experience.

A new generation of art collectors and buyers has not only emerged, but also taken the lead and is setting the trends of digital purchase. There has been a growth in collectors who are Millennials and Gen Z; are more high-tech; the type of person that for sure is not familiar with the long-standing habit of attending snobbish private views at art galleries or populating the pretentious rooms of an auction house. To address and satisfy the demands of a tech-savvy and sustainability aware new generation of leading art buyers, the art market must explore and consolidate a new segmentation focussing on ESG (environmental, social & governance) art.

Further, to focus on a segment dedicated to ESG topics in the domain of art, there is no need for a physical location at an art fair or a gallery space in a downtown art district where to attract and host potential buyers. This not only because the main consumer target is formed by individuals who would rather buy online, but because recent research has proved that, as a way of example, for galleries in the low segment with a turnover around the £ 250K mark, participating at fairs costs 22% of annual outgoings and returns only 11% of annual sales.ix

[1]A Call for Accountability and Action, The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, 2021, p. 3.

[1]Climate Change and Net Zero: Public Awareness and Perceptions, HM Government, UK, April 2021

[1] See: A Call for Accountability and Acton, The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, 2021.

[1] In: Online Sales and Business Mode Innovation in Art Markets: A Case Study, A. Fernandes and L. U. Alonso, Social Sciences, MDPI, 2020, p. 2.

[1] See: Online Sales and Business Mode Innovation in Art Markets: A Case Study, A. Fernandes and L. U. Alonso, Social Sciences, MDPI, 2020.

[1]ANN: The Art Basel and UBS Art Market 2020 is Available,, March, 2020.

[1]The Future of the Art Market, FOTAM Report, Creative United, 2019, p. 41.

[1] See: From Influencers to Collectors: The Rise of Millennial Art Buying, Connect with Art, 2021, at:

[1] See: UK Contemporary Gallery Report 2015/2016: Opportunities and Challenges in a Rapidly Changing Market Place, Creative United and Art Tactic, 2016.


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