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Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we explore the Millennial Collector.

Our Director Divvya Nirula presents reports from the international art market with the view to assist our collectors, investors, and all lovers of art.

The Confused Generation

The word millennial is loosely used to identify people who were growing up around the turn of the millennium. I say ‘loosely’ because currently, millennials are between 25 to 40 years old. That’s a massive age-range to squash under this one umbrella term. Especially since the rate at which human lifestyle evolved perhaps saw its biggest leap also at the turn of the millennium. A 25 year old today has very little in common with a 40 year old. We like different music. Our values don’t match. Our hopes and dreams could not be more dissimilar. We truly are, in some ways, a confused generation. Therefore, calling us all by this one single name is problematic. Not just in terms of vocabulary, but also with reference to how we behave as consumers.

Boomers Defining the Market

The baby boomers are people born just after World War II. They grew up between the 40s and 60s and are now between 56 to 74 years old. Now, you may argue that this is also a very wide age range to define a generation. However, we must remember that this generation was united by a common lifestyle. The aftermath of the War. And economic slowdown followed by a boom in consumerism. When we speak of mature art collectors – this is the generation we are referring to.

As collectors of art the baby boomers defined trends that shaped today’s market. These people were the first to appreciate and collect Modern and Contemporary art. They were the first to move away from traditional aesthetics and embrace the new. As the economy stabilised during the boom, New York was established as an important centre for art. The galleries that we now consider blue chip were established around this time.

While the boomers were young, their insatiable need to lead a life of financial independence, if not luxury, defined them. They did not want the War to haunt their entire lives. Thus, they were generally very astute and hard workers. Boomers were arguably the first non-aristocratic generation to really earn their living. And they made it big, even without an inheritance! Not only could they afford a Manhattan penthouse, they also hung a Picasso on the wall. Boomer art collectors were trend setters, let us now consider the millennial collector.

The Millennial Collector

The millennial generation has already seen 2 recessions in its lifetime. And this pandemic-induced situation we’re in right now? That’s the 3rd. Therefore, as far as accumulation of wealth in concerned – the average millennial hasn’t gotten very far. Especially when compared to a boomer. Furthermore, as a generation we tend to value the experiential over the material. Whether this means we give up our rented studios and travel. Or buy recreational substances with the limited funds we have. We aren’t as interested in accumulating objects and leaving a legacy. We don’t even have a singular voice or vocabulary that will define current and future art trends. So, then the question is : what is the future of the art market? And can it be sustained by a generation that cannot afford, or is not interested in art?

For Indian collectors in particular, times are tough. India had been a closed economy for such a long time. And even when it wasn’t we still preferred locally produced goods. When world enjoyed Skippy’s peanut butter. We came up with our own desi version of it. Kellogg’s introduced cornflakes. But we preferred Mohan’s. Gandhi’s Swadesi movement and Modi’s Make in India are both testaments to this truth. However, the Indian art market is not as competitive and booming as its FMCG sector. For the millennial Indian buyer looking to buy desi art, she can only turn to Hussain, Souza, Raza. And these masters are, more often than not, unaffordable to her.

Art and culture will always remain crucial aspects of human society. However, marketing this culture as a commodity for consumption is becoming more and more difficult. The the future of the market holds – only time can tell.

To read more on facts and opinions, visit Art Market & You.

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